New Jersey Theft Defense Lawyer

     New Jersey Theft crimes are governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.  This statute sets out the various penalties.  This is a different yet very similar offense to Shoplifting, and carries very serious consequences. 


What are the Penalties?

The penalties for Theft in NJ generally depend on how much property was taken.  If the incident involved certain property, injury, or death, the grade of the offense may differ.   For the full statute see here:

If the property allegedly stolen is valued under $200, the charge is a disorderly persons offense and you will be subject to:

  • Up to Six Months in Jail
  • Up to $1,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

If the property allegedly stolen is valued between $200 and $500, the charge is a fourth degree crime and you will be subject to:

  • Up to 18 Months Prison
  • Up to $10,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

If the property allegedly stolen is valued between $500 and $75,000, the charge is a 3rd degree crime and you will be subject to:

  • 3-5 Years in Prison                                     
  • Up to $15,000 Fine                                    
  • Criminal Record 

If the property allegedly stolen is valued over $75,000, the charge is a 2nd degreen crime and you will be subject to:

  • Up to 10  Years in Prison 
  • Up to $150,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

In addition to the above penalties the offender may be required to pay restitution to the injured party.  

If the offense was for auto theft or “grand theft auto”, you may also be subject to a MINIMUM 1-year loss of your driver’s license.


Can I fight my Theft Charge?

      To properly defend these cases you must be intimately familiar with all aspects a Theft case may take on from disproving elements of the States case, to having evidence suppressed.   With over 40 years experience as a Judge, Prosecutor, and Criminal Defense Lawyer, the Attorneys of Avery & Avery know how to keep you out of trouble.  As Criminal Defense Lawyers, we have mastered the identification of flaws in the States case, and will work with you to avoid a criminal conviction.    

If you or a family member or friend has been charged or indicted for Theft, it is important to be seek the help of a NJ Theft Defense Lawyer immediately.  Call now for a free consultation.


What is Theft?

In NJ, Property Theft (For other forms of theft, please see here)is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, reproduced in part below:

     Theft defined:  A person is guilty of theft if, with purpose to commit an offense therein or thereon he:

a. Movable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.

b. Immovable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully transfers any interest in immovable property of another with purpose to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto.

This is a different offense than Burglary or Shoplifting.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be charged with both Burglary and Theft, or Shoplifting and theft?

Often times a defendant will be charged with both Burglary and Theft, with the Theft being the predicate crime to the Burglary.  These are separate crimes, as Burglary relates mainly to an entry into an unauthorized location, whereas theft is the actual taking of something from that location.

If you have been charged with both Burglary and Theft, you may face up to 20 years in prison, and it is urgent to contact one of our experienced criminal defense experts immediately.  Avery & Avery has been defending our clients against these charges for nearly 40 years and will ensure your best chance of walking free.

I only accidentally took the merchandise, is this a defense?

Accidental theft happens fairly frequently and may be a defense in some circumstances.  New Jersey's theft statute, 2C:20-2, permits honest mistakes as an affirmative defense to the charge.  Even so, every case is very fact sensitive and require careful review, for a free consultation, please call 201-943-2445 to schedule an appointment with one of our NJ criminal defense lawyers.

The police are about to arrest me, what do I do?

In nearly all circumstances we tell our clients it is best to remain silent until they have consulted with us.  The police will try to have you implicate yourself, it is imperative you do not give them any more ammunition in order to convict you with.  If you are about to be arrested or have been, do not talk to anyone until you contact our criminal defense team.

Can I just pay the property owner (victim) back, and avoid prosecution?

It is often possible, as part of a plea agreement, in exchange for a reduction or dismissal of charges, it is possible to negotiate a payment of compensation for damage.  This is especially true with regard to minors. 

This is not always an option however, in many cases the County prosecutor may wish to charge criminally and require compensation concurrently. Before doing so in either case however, you should consult our theft defense team as occasionally repayment may be used against you in court as evidence of guilt.

What is the difference between moveable and immovable property?

The New Jersey theft statute entails all forms of theft, including via fraud or deception, identity theft, theft via computer, trade secrets, financial instruments, services, computer software, real estate, etc.  These are forms are property that may be considered immovable.  Movable property on the other hand includes cash, jewelry, cars, cell phones, and other goods that one may grab and walk away with.  In terms of penalties, it doesn’t matter whether the items stolen were movable or immovable property, generally only the value of the items matter.

What is the difference between 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree, and disorderly persons Theft in NJ?

This difference is solely based on the amount stolen.  Please refer to the right hand side column for the breakdown of penalties depending on the value of items taken.

How does the Graves Act (possession of a gun during commission of burglary) apply to me?

In NJ, under the Graves Act, an accused who committed any crime, including Theft (however this will generally change the charge from theft to the greater crime of Robbery), while in possession of a gun faces mandatory imposition of  parole eligibility restrictions.  This is New Jersey's equivalent of tough on gun violence laws.

If they have caught me and there are no defenses, what can I do?

In some situations the police have caught the defendant dead to rights and there are no defenses.  In situations like these we have often been successful in downgrading the offense to a far lesser penalty and no jail time.  Another approach is to enter our client into a diversionary program such as Pre Trial Intervention (PTI)  or Conditional Discharge (CD).  These programs provide the benefit of no jail time and no criminal record.  We have been successful with combinations of the two as well when dealing with high level offenders.

I have been convicted for Theft before, but in another state, how does this affect the case?

There is no step up provision for repeat offenses of theft, however if the other State's Theft law is substantially similar to NJ's, a NJ court will likely count it as a prior and be more inclined to impose greater than the minimum penalties.  This could mean the difference between a possible 5 year sentence and a 10 year sentence.  If you have been convicted before for Theft, no matter the State, it is imperative you contact an Experienced NJ Criminal Defense Attorney.

How does a theft charge / conviction affect my immigration status?

The United States has very restrictive immigration laws, and a NJ Theft charge can have dire consequences, including possible deportation and inadmissibility back into the US.  

Theft charges are generally considered a crime “involving moral turpitude.”    The Department of Homeland Security is mandated to remove non-citizens who commit certain crimes, including crimes “involving moral turpitude”.  Because of this it is even more urgent for Green Card holders, Visa holders, Permanent Residents, or non-citizens to be represented by a shoplifting defense lawyer, and fight the charges.  

If you have been charged with any criminal offense in NJ and are not a citizen, don’t risk immigration consequences.  Our theft defense lawyers have a great success in protecting our clients from the immigration consequences of theft.

What happens when a minor (juvenile), someone under 18 years old, is arrested for shoplifting?

When a minor is caught for theft, they should be charged with Juvenile Delinquency instead of Theft.  Although NJ’s juvenile justice system is generally more lenient and provides greater latitude for a Judge to craft an appropriate punishment, someone thus charged can still face nearly the same consequences as if faced with theft instead.  For more information on this please see here.

What is the difference between Shoplifting and Theft?

When a Theft and Shoplifting are very similar crimes.  Both crimes carry nearly identical punishments, and proofs.  Shoplifting is what is charged when people steal from a store, whereas theft is generally any other taking.  For more information on NJ Shoplifting charges, please see here.

Where do you practice?

Our NJ Theft Defense Attorneys regularly defend clients in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Morris, Union, Sussex, and Essex counties.  We also regularly are able to have the charges downgraded and heard in the municipal courts of the State.

I only borrowed the car and was planning to return it?

This crime is whats called an unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.  This is a common offense, but one which still carries serious penalties.  If it was a vehicle you took, you can be charged for a fourth degree crime.  For the full statute and fuller explanation of New Jerseys unlawful taking law, see here.  Even if it is not alleged that you planned to steal the vehicle, you can face serious consequences.  For a free consultation, contact one of our New Jersey Theft Defense Lawyers immediately.

The stores security guards detained me against my will, is this a defense?

In some cases, where the private security of the store unlawfully detained a defendant, there can be a defense.  A store like TJ Max, Macys, or any other merchant can employ private security.  They are allowed to detain people upon reasonable cause.  They need a real reason for stopping you (it cannot be just a hunch, or racism) and must follow proper procedure.  If you feel a stores internal security violated your rights, contact a theft defense attorney today.

© Avery & Avery, Esqs., 2012-2017 All rights reserved. Robert W. Avery, Esq., Avery & Avery, Esqs., www.averylaw-nj.com, drugcrimedefenselawyer-nj.com, trafficticketlawyer-nj.com, and criminaldefenselawyer-nj.com, own all intellectual property rights, including all copyrights, in and related to the content and top design of this site and the organization of the information contained in this site. Disclaimer: This website is made available by Robert W. Avery, Esq., and Avery & Avery, Esqs., to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice.  By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the website publisher.  Communication by you (via email, facsimile, or telephone) does not create an attorney client relationship, which can only be accomplished by a written retainer agreement between lawyer and client.  Our top priority is to provide all of our clients and those who search for us, whether for personal injury matters, general trial work, criminal arrests, drug and marijuana arrests, municipal court dui dwi drunk driving arrests and breathalyzer/alcotest refusal representation, or for estate planning, estate administration, powers or attorney, living wills, advance directives, or for their last will and testament, with the best representation and best defense available anywhere. Our primary practice is in the Bergen County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Morris County, Essex County, Sussex County and the North New Jersey region.