New Jersey Theft Offenses and Penalties | Misdemeanor, Felony Theft NJ (2023)

“You can be charged with theft in numerous situations and the penalties for theft offenses vary in NJ. Felony theft crimes carry state prison sentences, while misdemeanor theft is punishable by county jail time.”

If you or someone you love has been charged with a theft crime in New Jersey, it is important to understand what theft is, the common types of theft offenses charged in New Jersey, and the potential consequences of being convicted. At The Tormey Law Firm, our highly experienced NJ theft defense attorneys represent clients facing a vast range of theft charges, including theft by deception and extortion, theft of services, credit card theft, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting. Having successfully handled thousands of theft cases in Superior and Municipal courts in Bergen County, Passaic County, Morris County, Essex County, Monmouth County and everywhere in between, we thoroughly understand the nuances of theft laws and defense. Here we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from clients charged with theft in New Jersey. To consult with a seasoned theft defense lawyer about your unique case, contact us at (201)-556-1570 today.

What is Theft in New Jersey?

Theft occurs when a person takes something that does not belong to them or asserts control over something belonging to another. The property taken can be “movable” or “immovable.” It can also be a service, money, or something else intangible that still has value. Regardless of what the exact type of property taken is, it must be your intention to take something that belongs to another. In other words, theft is not an offense committed accidentally. Theft charges in New Jersey require intent.

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What Can Get You Arrested for Theft?

There are numerous criminal charges that fall within the category of theft crimes, as there are a number of acts that actually constitute theft under New Jersey law. Below are some of the most commonly charged theft offenses that get people arrested in New Jersey.

Stealing a Credit Card

Credit card theft is more common than one might think. With advances in technology, it has become increasingly easier to skim financial and personal information belonging to others. Using someone else’s information to open a line of credit or credit card that you intend to use is considered theft. Sometimes, this offense happens in a less detectable way, such as presenting a card with another person’s name on it, presenting an ID with your picture and the name of another person, or simply applying for a cell phone in the name of someone else. Actions like these can also lead to identity theft charges. Further, credit card theft can be as simple as possessing the physical credit card of another. Anytime you have a card or card information and attempt to use it for your own gain or without permission, you can be charged with theft.

Theft of a Motor Vehicle

You can be charged with several different auto theft offenses for taking a car that does not belong to you in New Jersey. Depending on the circumstances, you may be charged with a fourth degree crime for joyriding, a third degree crime plus additional penalties for auto theft, or even a first degree crime for carjacking. Joyriding means that you took a car without the specific permission of the owner. It often occurs when the parties know one another and permission was given on prior occasions to use the car. Theft of a motor vehicle requires intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car, as opposed to temporarily taking it for the purposes of a joy ride. On the other hand, carjacking occurs when a car is taken by force and under duress. Some carjacking offenses result in injury, while others may not.

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Another theft offense that is becoming more common involves theft of a rental vehicle. Many people rent cars from rental companies and then fail to return the car on the contracted due date. After the car is not returned, the rental companies may contact police. Taking a rental car may lead to charges for a third degree theft offense and a warrant may be issued for the person’s arrest.

Receipt of Stolen Property

Receiving stolen property is a form of theft often used as a catchall when the state cannot prove that a person actually took the property in question. For example, if you answer an ad offering to sell a motorcycle, you buy the motorcycle, and then it turns out to be stolen, arguably it was not your intention to steal the bike. The State would try to prove that you “received stolen property” (which equates to a theft) and that you should have known the bike was stolen. To prove this, the prosecution may use the surrounding circumstances, such as the low cost of the motorcycle, the lack of title, or the screwdriver needed to start the bike because the key is missing. This evidence may be sufficient to establish that you knew, or should have known, that the motorcycle was stolen.

Other Common Types of Theft

There are other forms of theft in New Jersey and countless scenarios in which a person may be charged with a theft offense. Some of the other typical circumstances involving theft include:

(Video) 2C:20-8 Theft By Deception NJ

  • Taking and using another individual’s check or debit card
  • Stealing a prescription pad belonging to a doctor
  • Shoplifting merchandise from a retailer
  • Taking an item that was left or lost by another or failing to return it to the police
  • Inducing someone to provide services and not paying
  • Obtaining money from another by threat or extortion
  • Robbery
  • Deceiving someone into thinking that you have the right to receive property or money
  • Stealing or taking another individual’s prescription medication
  • Assuming someone else’s identity (identity theft)

Is Theft a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Just as specific theft charges vary, so too do the potential consequences. Theft can be charged and prosecuted as either a disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offense or an indictable (felony) offense. Among the many differences between felony and misdemeanor theft offenses, the levels of these crimes differ in terms of jail time, fines, and the impact on your criminal record.

What is Petty Theft?

The technical term for petty theft in New Jersey is “disorderly persons offense,” which is the same thing as a misdemeanor. A disorderly persons theft offense can be charged if the value of the item is less than $200. As a consequence, you can be ordered to spend 180 days in jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines.

What Theft Amount is a Felony?

For a felony theft offense in NJ, the state will have to prove that the value of the item taken is greater than $200. Essentially, taking an item worth $201 will subject you to a fourth degree felony theft charge, up to 18 months in state prison, and up to $10,000 fine. Taking something valued between $500 and $75,000 will lead to theft charges for a third degree crime, punishable by 3-5 years in state prison. Second degree theft crimes (involving $75,000 or more worth of property), require prison time at a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 10 years. At the highest end of the theft crime spectrum, a first degree criminal charge for carjacking could land you in prison for 30 years. This offense has additional prison exposure beyond even a typical first degree crime such as armed robbery, which may result in between 10 and 20 years of imprisonment.

(Video) Credit Card Theft Charges in New Jersey - NJ Criminal Defense Lawyer Travis J. Tormey

When it comes to second and first degree theft offenses, there is a presumption of imprisonment. This means that, if convicted, the court must sentence the defendant to prison time. Having a prior criminal record or no record at all does not impact the presumption of incarceration for these serious felony-level charges.

Is the Degree of Theft Always Based on How Much?

Sometimes, the value of the item has no bearing on the degree of the theft crime charged. In other words, there are specific situations in which the value of the items will not determine the grading of a theft offense. For example, credit card theft is a third or fourth degree crime, regardless of the amount that the physical card is worth. Similarly, stealing a prescription will subject you to a third degree felony charge. If you have the misfortune of being accused of stealing a gun, this is considered a second degree crime, regardless of the minimal value of the gun itself.

Charged with Theft in New Jersey?

If you or a loved one has been accused of theft in New Jersey, it is imperative to find the most knowledgeable defense counsel. Our seasoned team of New Jersey theft lawyers have extensive experience defending clients charged with theft throughout the state, including in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Paterson, Elizabeth, and New Brunswick. Call (201)-556-1570 for a free initial consultation with an attorney who can help craft your best defense for a theft offense. We will review the facts of your case, discuss potential defense strategies with you, and explain how we can work to lower the charges and penalties or get the case dismissed.

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What is the amount for felony theft in NJ? ›

What Theft Amount is a Felony? For a felony theft offense in NJ, the state will have to prove that the value of the item taken is greater than $200. Essentially, taking an item worth $201 will subject you to a fourth degree felony theft charge, up to 18 months in state prison, and up to $10,000 fine.

What is the punishment for theft in NJ? ›

Charges and possible penalties for theft crimes under New Jersey law include: Disorderly persons offense: Up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Fourth-degree offense: Up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Third-degree offense: 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

What are the 4 types of stealing? ›

Under these two main categories, there are many different types of theft, including embezzlement, shoplifting, fraud, and robbery.

How much time do you get for stealing car? ›

The offense becomes a felony punishable by two, three, or four years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The same enhanced penalty—a two-, three-, or four-year felony sentence—applies if the person has a prior felony conviction or convictions for joyriding, grand theft auto, or any felony theft involving a vehicle. (Cal.

How much money do you have to steal to go to jail NJ? ›

Shoplifting goods valued at less than $200 can mean spending up to six months in detention (disorderly persons offense); for goods valued between $200 and $500 it can mean up to one year in detention (fourth-degree crime); for goods valued between $500 and $75,000 it can mean up to two years in detention (third-degree ...

What is a felony charge in NJ? ›

Unlike most states, New Jersey does not label crimes as felonies and misdemeanors. So, technically, there are no “felonies” under New Jersey law. Instead, felony-level offenses are called “indictable crimes,” and misdemeanor-level offenses are called “disorderly persons offenses” or “petty disorderly persons offenses.”

What is a good punishment for theft? ›

In general, if convicted of a misdemeanor theft, a person might be faced with a maximum $1000 fine and six months in jail. Felony theft crimes are punished with a maximum of three years in prison, restitution to the victim, and a first strike on your California criminal record.

What is the highest punishment for theft? ›

Any person who steals anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony and is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.

Is theft a felony in NJ? ›

New Jersey doesn't categorize theft crimes as felonies or misdemeanors. A theft crime in NJ can be categorized as an indictable offense (which are considered felonies elsewhere), or a disorderly person's offense (which are considered misdemeanors elsewhere).

How do you defend theft charges? ›

One common and effective defence to a theft charge is to argue that you did not have the mental intention required to be found guilty of this offence. That is, while you may have taken the goods in question, it is also possible that you did not have the fraudulent intent required to be guilty of theft.

What mental illness is associated with stealing? ›

Kleptomania (klep-toe-MAY-nee-uh) is a mental health disorder that involves repeatedly being unable to resist urges to steal items that you generally don't really need. Often the items stolen have little value and you could afford to buy them. Kleptomania is rare but can be a serious condition.

What is the lowest form of theft? ›

The minimum type of theft charge is called, “Petty Larceny,” which means stealing something up to the value of $1,000. This frequently happens when people go places like departmental stores and take clothing, jewelry, or things of that nature.

Can you go to jail for shoplifting? ›

Ultimately, a person caught shoplifting may be arrested and put on trial. A shoplifting conviction will result in a criminal record and a sentence. A police caution may be given as an alternative to prosecution. If accepted, this caution still comes with a criminal record.

What cars are hardest to steal? ›

10 cars that are hardest to steal
  • BMW 3 Series Four-Door. A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that the BMW 3 Series was the least-stolen car in the United States. ...
  • Tesla Model S. ...
  • Hyundai Tucson. ...
  • Audi A4. ...
  • Land Rover Discovery. ...
  • Mercedes Benz GL 550 by TAC.
19 Jan 2022

Why can't stores stop shoplifters? ›

Why are store employees not able to physically stop a shoplifter? Typically because it's against store policy. From a purely legal standpoint, they could technically physically stop a shoplifter. At least in the US citizens have the right to stop or detain another person for a crime they witness.

How much stolen money is considered a felony? ›

Felony theft is determined by the value of the item(s) taken. If the value of the item taken was at least $1,000, that is considered a felony. If it is less than $1,000, it is considered a misdemeanor.

Is theft by deception a felony in NJ? ›

Depending on the value of the property involved, theft by deception can be a misdemeanor or felony. It is a misdemeanor, referred to as a disorderly persons offense, if the value involved is less than $200. This grade of offense would be a municipal court charge.

What is 3rd degree theft in NJ? ›

Third Degree Offense

Theft of merchandise totaling more than $500 but less than $75,000 is a third-degree felony offense. Anyone convicted of a third-degree theft crime may be facing between 3-5 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000.

Can you get probation for a felony in New Jersey? ›

Under New Jersey law, judges do have some discretion over the length of your sentence – they can allow you to serve all or part of your prison sentence on probation. However, you should also be aware that certain offenses may require extended terms, such as 20 years to life in prison for first-degree murder.

How long does a felony stay on your record in NJ? ›

Crimes or felonies which resulted in a conviction can generally be expunged ten years after you have completed your sentence, paid your fine, or completed parole or probation, whichever comes last.

What is the highest felony you can be charged with? ›

A crime that's a Class A federal felony is the worst, with a maximum prison term of life in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. A Class E federal felony involves a prison term of more than one year but less than five years and a maximum fine of $5,000.

How long does a conviction for theft last? ›

If the person was 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense (i.e. legally considered to be an adult), then the conviction will be expunged from their record 11 years after the conviction date (not the offense date).

Is theft considered a serious crime? ›

Theft comes in many different forms such as: shoplifting, burglary, etc. Typically the greater the value of what is stolen; the more seriously the crime of theft is regarded. Furthermore, it is also considered more serious if the theft has been planned in advance. Theft carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

Is theft an arrestable Offence? ›

A list of arrestable offences is set out in the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code, and includes the following offences: Theft. Cheating. Criminal breach of trust.

Is it stealing if you give it back? ›

Returning an Item Due to Remorse

Because intent is present, it is entirely possible to prosecute a person for stealing an item they later return. The return is irrelevant to the charges. The person took the item on purpose and permanently, and that is all the prosecution needs to know to seek justice.

How much is the punishment for theft? ›

In theft cases under the RPC, the value of stolen property has increased. Similarly, in estafa cases, the value of the fraud has increased. The maximum fine for light penalties under the RPC, which carry imprisonment of “a minimum of one (1) day to a maximum of six (6) months” is increased from P200 to P40,000.

What is the largest type of theft? ›

Wage theft is the largest form of theft in the United States
  • When you consider the most common form of theft, you may think of a whole range of activities, from grand theft auto to home invasions and burglaries. ...
  • There are a lot of different ways for wage theft to happen.
27 Apr 2022

Can theft be expunged in NJ? ›

Both shoplifting and theft are eligible for expungement in the state of New Jersey.

Is stealing a felony or misdemeanor? ›

Depending on what was stolen how the crime took place, theft can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Illegally taking or using items that belong to a business or to another person will result in charges, but the severity of the charges will vary.

What is considered theft in NJ? ›

Theft. – A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes or exercises control over the movable property of another with the purpose of depriving the individual of that property.

Can I drop charges against someone for theft? ›

The short answer is: “Yes, theft charges can be dropped before going to a court hearing.” The important fine print is absolutely do not try to do it yourself.

What Defences are available for theft? ›

What defence is there against a theft charge?
  • Mistaken identity – i.e. you were not involved in the theft.
  • You did not intend to permanently deprive the victim of the item stolen – and therefore the offence does not count as theft.
  • You only played a limited role in the offence.

What are the evidences for qualified theft? ›

Thus, the elements of qualified theft punishable under Article 310 in relation to Article 308 of the RPC are as follows: (1) there was a taking of personal property; (2) the said property belongs to another; (3) the taking was done without the consent of the owner; (4) the taking was done with intent to gain; (5) the ...

Is stealing a symptom of bipolar? ›

However, research on dopamine levels found people can become addicted to stealing in a similar way to alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, severe depression, anxiety, and kleptomania may be linked to shoplifting.

What is the psychology behind stealing? ›

The habitual thief may appear to suffer from a compulsion (“kleptomania”). He may be seen as resorting to stealing as a way to “feel better” while coping with depression or adverse circumstances over which he has no control. Perhaps a person steals to boost his self-esteem.

Is stealing a symptom of anxiety? ›

While kleptomania isn't dangerous by itself, it very commonly happens with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, substance use disorders and addictions, and more.

What is the difference between theft and qualified theft? ›

The difference between theft and qualified theft

While the basic principles remain the same, the crime becomes qualified theft if: The crime is committed by a domestic servant; or. The crime is committed with grave abuse of confidence; or.

How much is the bail for qualified theft? ›

The Department of Justice today said that the value of property in cases of qualified theft that determines whether or not bail can be granted is set at Php222,000. This is the existing policy under Department Circular No. 29 series of 2005.

What is the most common reason for theft? ›

Stealing may be caused by jealousy, low self-esteem, or peer-pressure. Social issues like feeling excluded or overlooked can also cause stealing. People may steal to prove their independence, to act out against family or friends, or because they don't respect others or themselves.

What happens if you leave after shoplifting? ›

Leaving the Store Without Being Caught

Even if you successfully shoplift and exit the store without being caught, you can still be arrested. When there is missing inventory or if something distinctive is gone from the shelves, businesses may review security footage.

What should you not do when shoplifting? ›

Here are a few things you should avoid doing when accused of shoplifting:
  1. Don't attempt to pay for the item after the fact. ...
  2. Don't provide any personal information to store employees. ...
  3. Don't make any statements to store employees, managers, or security guards. ...
  4. Don't sign any documents at the store.

Do police deal with shoplifting? ›

The police can stop or stop and search you or a vehicle: If they think you're carrying stolen goods, weapons, drugs, articles to commit criminal damage and theft or evidence relating to certain crimes.

What is the number 1 most stolen car? ›

Ford Pickups

What is the easiest car to steal? ›

America's Top 10 Stolen Cars
  • Honda Civic. Stats.
  • Honda Accord. Stats. ...
  • Toyota Camry. Stats. ...
  • Nissan Altima. Stats. ...
  • GMC Full-Size Pickup. Stats. Number of thefts: 13,016. ...
  • Toyota Corolla. Stats. Number of thefts: 12,515. ...
  • Honda CR-V. Stats. Number of thefts: 12,309. ...
  • Dodge Full-Size Pickup. Stats. Number of thefts: 11,991. ...
20 Sept 2022

What cars are least stolen? ›

And indeed, according to a study by HLDI, Teslas are among the least-stolen vehicles, with the Model S and Model X boasting a relative claim rate of 11 and 12, respectively, where the 100 represents the average.

What age are most shoplifters? ›

In addition, tardy police may add to the shoplifting problem. A total of 66.6 percent of all shoplifters reported were under 30 years of age; 6.2 percent were under 12 years of age; 26.7 percent were between 12 and 17 years of age; and 33.7 percent were between 18 and 29 years.

What do shoplifters steal the most? ›

It's true that bold thieves will just grab an item and run from the store, but the majority of shoplifters, especially amateurs, are likely to conceal stolen items in things they bring into the store. This includes handbags, shopping bags from other stores, large coats, and even umbrellas.

Is 3rd degree theft a felony NJ? ›

The most common variety of indictable felony shoplifting offense is third degree. A third degree shoplifting charge involves jail exposure of up to five (5) years and is therefore something that must be addressed seriously.

What is considered grand theft in NJ? ›

Theft crimes can be classified by degree based on the value of the property and other factors. Petty theft crimes involve goods of less than $250. Grand theft or grand larceny crimes involve goods of more than $250 and are further divided into degrees. More serious theft offenses are indictable offenses.

Can a 3rd degree felony be expunged in NJ? ›

A conviction for third degree and fourth degree crimes involving sale or distribution of drugs, or possession with intent to sell may be expunged if the court finds that expungement is in the public interest, considering the nature of the offense and the character and conduct of the petitioner since conviction.

What is a Class 2 felony in NJ? ›

Second Degree crimes involve jail exposure of five (5) to ten (10) years and fines of up to $150,000. Common second degree charges are aggravated assault, theft offenses involving property with a value of $75,000 or more, and strong arm robbery.

What is 4th degree theft in NJ? ›

Theft is a fourth degree crime in New Jersey if the value of the property involved is between $200 and $500. Theft is a disorderly persons offense if the value of the property involved is less than $200 or the property stolen is an electronic vehicle identification system transponder.

What is 2nd degree theft in NJ? ›

Second-degree theft: These charges are reserved for property valued greater than $75,000, extortion, theft of a controlled substance greater than a kilogram, or human remains and can result in up to 10 years in jail.

What is a 3rd degree felony in NJ? ›

Under the New Jersey Criminal Law, a wide variety of offenses fall within the third degree grade, including: Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance; Aggravated Assault (significant bodily injury) Shoplifting (merchandise with value of $500 or more); Burglary; and.

What are the 5 elements of theft? ›

These are: appropriation, property, property belonging to another, dishonesty, and the intention to permanently deprive.

Is stealing a car a felony in NJ? ›

New Jersey doesn't apply lower theft penalties, which start at disorderly persons offenses. Rather, vehicle theft starts as an indictable crime of the third degree, punishable by imprisonment for three to five years and a fine of up to $15,000.

What degree is theft by deception in NJ? ›

This offense is referred to as theft by deception and is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4. Depending on the facts and the dollar amount involved, you can face a second degree, third degree, fourth degree, or a disorderly persons offense.


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