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Theft By Unlawful Taking Felony or Misdemeanor?

Legal Blog

If you’re under arrest for theft crimes in New Jersey, you know you’re in for some serious consequences. Punishment for theft by unlawful taking can range from fines to jail time. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Theft by Unlawful Taking?

The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice defines theft by unlawful taking in Title 2C:20-3.
The code states that two types of property can be stolen, movable property and immovable property. Theft by unlawful taking or disposition is different than theft by deception or theft by extortion.

Is Theft by Unlawful Taking a Felony or Misdemeanor?

The short answer is, it can be both. First, it is essential to define the fact that in New Jersey, some definitions are different. What is a felony in other states is called an “indictable offense,” and what is a misdemeanor in other states is called a “disorderly persons offense.”

Whether police charge a person with an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense depends on several factors. These include:

  • Whether you are a first-time offender
  • The type of theft
  • The value of the property
  • Whether the theft happened in conjunction with another crime
  • Whether the robbery occurred in conjunction with a violent crime

How does Value Affect the Degree of Theft Charges?

In New Jersey, how much the stolen item is worth determines a lot about the severity of the charge.

  • Disorderly Persons Offense – Theft of $200 or less
  • Fourth-Degree Felony Offense – Theft of $200 to $500
  • Third-Degree Felony Offense – Theft of $500 to $75,000
  • Second-Degree Felony Offense – Theft of $75,000 or more

What are Some of the Penalties for Theft by Unlawful Taking in New Jersey?

The offenses and penalties you can face depend on the severity of the crime in New Jersey and are as follows.

First-Degree Felony

This charge is the most serious. A first-degree felony charge is usually only used if it is in combination with a violent crime. As a result, punishment can include:

  • up to 30 years jail time
  • fine of up to $200,000

Second-Degree Felony

This charge is also severe, usually because of the high value of what was stolen. It can also be because the theft took place in conjunction with another serious crime. Penalties in New Jersey are:

  • 5 to 10 years in prison
  • fine of up to $15,000

Third-Degree Felony

A third-degree felony has the following penalties:

  • 3 to 5 years in prison
  • fine of up to $10,000

Fourth-Degree Felony

This charge is the least serious of the unlawful taking charges. Penalties are:

  • up to 18 months in prison
  • fine of up to $10,000

Disorderly Persons Offense

This charge is New Jersey’s misdemeanor offense charge. You may still have to serve jail time. Also, if convicted, punishment includes:

  • up to six months in jail
  • fine of up to $1,000

Have You Been Charged with a Theft Offense?

In New Jersey, there are programs in place to help first-time offenders, and others accused of theft offenses. There are divisionary programs that help those convicted rehabilitate, and help them avoid crime in the future.

Pre-Trial Intervention Program

New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program, or PTI, lets a defendant avoid a conviction. Instead of being charged with a disorderly persons conviction or a felony, the court places a defendant in the PTI program under supervision. The length of time is usually one to three years. Once they complete the program, the person will have no conviction on their record. Additionally, some requirements for the program can include:

  • Community service
  • Paying restitution to victims
  • Random urine monitoring
  • Fees, penalties, and fines.
  • Submission to psychological or drug and alcohol
    evaluations
  • Compliance to recommended treatment programs

Conditional Dismissal

A Conditional Dismissal Program also lets a defendant avoid a criminal conviction. This diversionary program is for first-time offenders who have never participated in any other New Jersey program such as PTI, conditional discharge, or conditional dismissal.

Is There a Defense for Theft By Unlawful Taking?

Yes, an experienced lawyer can help you with different defense options. These include getting your case dismissed, getting your charges reduced, or going into one of New Jersey’s divisionary programs.

If you are a first-time offender, you can discuss the terms of these divisionary programs with your defense attorney. They will explain all the defenses to theft by unlawful taking. One of the most commonly used is lack of specific intent required to commit the crime. Your lawyer could use this defense if you didn’t intend to deprive the owner of their property permanently.

It is essential to speak to an attorney before you plead guilty. Any conviction on your record will significantly affect your future, including your ability to earn a living and get housing.

If you’re under arrest for theft by unlawful taking in New Jersey, call an experienced lawyer immediately. Our professional staff will set up a free consultation, so you know all your options.

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