Have you recently been arrested for or charged with theft crimes in New Jersey? You likely know that you can face serious penalties if you are convicted, including monetary fines and imprisonment. In addition to the immediate penalties imposed by the court, a criminal conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony offense can also have substantial repercussions beyond your sentence. To be sure, a person in New Jersey who is convicted of certain theft crimes can limit his or her ability to obtain certain jobs, credit lines, and other benefits.
Are theft crimes in New Jersey classified as misdemeanors or felonies? A theft crime in New Jersey can be either an indictable offense (which would be considered a felony elsewhere) or a disorderly persons offense (which would be considered a misdemeanor elsewhere). A variety of factors play into to whether the theft is an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense.
What factors can influence the severity of the criminal charge and the possible penalties? Factors that can shift the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony, as well as to felony charges of ranging degrees, include but are not limited to:
- Specific type of theft crime
- Whether the offense was committed by a first-time offender
- Value of the property taken illegally
- Whether the offense occurred in conjunction with another criminal offense (especially a violent crime)
If you are facing theft charges, you should always discuss your case and your defense strategy with an experienced Monmouth County theft defense lawyer. It is important to take every step you can to avoid a criminal conviction, and the Law Office of Jason A. Volet can help.
General Offenses and Penalties for Theft Crimes in New Jersey
In general, based on the variety of factors mentioned above, theft crimes can be charged as misdemeanor offenses, all the way up to first-degree felonies. The possible offenses and penalties that you can face for theft crimes under New Jersey law (Title 2C—The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice) include:
- First-degree felony: The most serious of all felony charges, a conviction of a first-degree felony can lead to imprisonment for a period of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $200,000. In general, a first-degree felony typically is charged only in theft crime cases where the theft was committed in conjunction with a particularly violent crime (for instance, carjacking).
- Second-degree felony: After a first-degree felony offense, this is the most serious felony charge that a defendant can face. Second-degree felony theft offenses, upon conviction, carry penalties of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Second-degree theft felonies can be charged in a variety of situations, but this serious charge often reflects the high value of property stolen and/or the accompaniment of the theft crime by an additional crime of great severity, such as robbery.
- Third-degree felony: A person convicted of a third-degree felony theft offense can receive a prison sentence of three to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Fourth-degree felony: This is the least serious of all felony theft offense charges, but it nonetheless carries with it substantial penalties. A person in New Jersey who is convicted of a fourth-degree felony theft offense can be sentenced to a term of up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Disorderly persons offense (New Jersey’s misdemeanor offense charge): If you are convicted of a misdemeanor theft offense, you can still face jail time. The law specifies that a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor theft offense can receive a sentence of up to six months of imprisonment and a monetary fine of up to $1,000.
Understanding How Value Can Impact the Degree of Theft Crime Charges
The value of the item stolen in a theft crime has a substantial impact upon the charge. Under New Jersey law, the following values indicate the level of charge:
- Theft of $75,000 or more: second-degree felony offense
- Theft of more than $500 but less than $75,000: third-degree felony offense
- Theft of more than $200 and up to $500: fourth-degree felony offense
- Theft of less than $200: disorderly persons offense
Alternate Sentences through Diversionary Programs
If you have been arrested for and/or charged with a theft offense in Monmouth County, it is not yet a given that you will have to face jail time. You may be eligible for diversionary programs that aim to provide rehabilitative services — typically to first-time offenders — and to discourage criminal activity in the future.
How might New Jersey’s diversionary program offerings be able to help in your case? In brief, there are a few different options that may be available to an offender charged with a theft crime, including the following:
- Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI): As the New Jersey Courts website explains, the Pretrial Intervention Program, if successfully completed, can allow a defendant (usually a first-time offender) to avoid a felony or disorderly persons conviction. An offender will need to be under PTI program supervision for a period of one to three years, and the offender will need to comply with the conditions of the program (including, for instance, community service or paying restitution to victims). Once PTI is successfully completed, the defendant will have, according to the website, “no record of conviction and the defendant avoids the stigma of a criminal record.”
- Conditional Dismissal: Somewhat similar to PTI, a conditional dismissal program is a diversionary program that permits a defendant to avoid having a record of criminal conviction, as well as to avoid certain penalties associated with a disorderly persons conviction. As a New Jersey Courts memo explains, conditional dismissal is only available to first-time offenders charged with disorderly persons offenses, and those offenders cannot have participated previously in a conditional discharge, conditional dismissal, or PTI program.
Such diversionary programs can be enormously beneficial to defendants. PTI and conditional dismissal programs can allow you to avoid the harsh penalties associated with felony and disorderly persons convictions, as well as the social and legal stigma associated with a criminal conviction. It is extremely important to discuss your case with an aggressive New Jersey criminal defense lawyer to learn more about your eligibility for diversionary programs and how to apply.
Contact an Experienced Monmouth County Theft Defense Lawyer
If you are facing theft offense charges, the next step is to speak with an experienced theft defense attorney in Monmouth County, N.J., about your case. At the Law Office of Jason A. Volet, we offer a free consultation and can begin discussing defense strategies with you today. Contact us for more information about getting to work on your case.
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney, Jason A. Volet focuses his practice exclusively on criminal and municipal defense in New Jersey and New York. He earned his B.A. in political science from Rutgers College in 1995 and his J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law in 1998. Mr. Volet began his career in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, where he gained extensive experience prosecuting both juvenile and adult offenders. Now, as a criminal defense attorney, he uses that experience to fight for the rights of individuals who have been charged with a crime.