If you are convicted of a theft offense in New Jersey, the consequences may be broader and more expensive than you thought possible. Criminal penalties range from months or years in prison to tens of thousands of dollars in fees and fines. On top of the punishment determined upon conviction, you can also face serious civil penalties due to New Jersey law or from being sued. These civil penalties compound the criminal consequences, particularly the financial aspect.
If you lose a civil suit based on a theft offense, you can end up owing thousands more. The best way to avoid both criminal and civil penalties for theft in New Jersey is to work with an experienced Jersey City criminal defense attorney at Bhatt Law Group. We offer decades of collective experience helping individuals fight criminal and civil charges arising from accusations of theft.
Call us today at (201) 798-8000 to schedule a free consultation.
Defining Theft in New Jersey
If you are facing charges for theft, you should understand how it is defined by the law and the elements prosecutors must prove to gain a conviction. Under New Jersey’s criminal code, there are a number of statutes that deal with various theft crimes. Statute 2C:20-3 states an individual is guilty of theft if they unlawfully take, or exercise unlawful control over, any moveable property of another person with the intent to deprive that person thereof. Also, an individual is guilty of theft if they unlawfully transfer any interest in immovable property, such as real estate, of another person with the purpose to benefit themselves or another not entitled thereto.
While this is the basic definition of theft, New Jersey statutes 2C:20-4 through 2C:20-11 outline the following crimes as well:
- Theft by deception
- Theft by extortion
- Theft of lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered property
- Receiving stolen property
- Theft of services
- Theft by failure to make required disposition of property received
- Unlawful taking of means of conveyance
Criminal Penalties for Theft
Criminal penalties are those that take place after you are convicted of the crime and sentenced by a judge or jury. In general, criminal penalties include imprisonment, fines, probation, community service, and restitution. The exact type and length of the criminal penalties depend on the theft offense, value of the property stolen, and whether anyone was hurt or a dangerous weapon was used.
Under New Jersey law, theft offenses can be charged as a disorderly persons offense, or a fourth, third, or second-degree crime. For example, a disorderly persons offense is used when the value of property stolen is less than $200. This is also called petty theft and punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine. Stolen property between the value of $200 and $500 leads to a fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. The length of imprisonment and amount of the fine increase as the value of the stolen property rises. Other factors such as weapons and violence will raise the level of the offense and punishments.
Civil Penalties for Theft
If you are convicted of a theft charge, you face additional consequences to the criminal penalties. Civil penalties are those that are determined and monitored under New Jersey’s administrative law. They are not determined by a criminal court. You may face automatic civil penalties under New Jersey law, like for shoplifting, or after being sued by the victim of the theft crime.
If you are convicted of shoplifting merchandise less than $500, you are civilly liable to the store for:
- The value of the merchandise up to $500, if the merchandise can no longer be sold
- The cost of any damage to the store or merchandise due to the shoplifting incident, not including the merchants lost time or wages
- A $150 civil penalty
Victims of the theft offense, such as the store or homeowner, can file a lawsuit against you for the monetary losses they suffered due to your actions and personal injuries if they were injured during the incident. For instance, if you have been convicted of breaking into a home and stealing electronics, you may be sued for the cost of repairing anything you broke inside the home, such as the door or lock. If you pushed a person during the incident who fell and suffered a concussion, you can be sued for that individual’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering due to the injury.
Contact a Jersey City Theft Attorney Today
If you are facing charges of theft, do not hesitate to find experienced and aggressive legal representation. At Bhatt Law Group, we will use all of the resources at our disposal to build you the strongest defense possible under the law. We will help you seek an acquittal in court and minimize both the criminal and civil consequences of the charges.
To learn more about how we can help, call us today at (201) 798-8000 to schedule a free consultation.