Unlawful Taking

What is theft by unlawful taking?

A man walking through a bar sees a purse sitting on an empty chair. The man picks up the purse and leaves with it. This is Theft by Unlawful Taking.

In New Jersey, the most common charge for theft is called Theft by Unlawful Taking and it is defined in New Jersey Statute 2C:20-3. This is an all-encompassing crime that says a person is guilty of theft if the person unlawfully takes or controls property of another with the purpose to keep the property. Depending on the circumstances, a person could be charged with additional forms of theft, including Theft by Deception – N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4, Receiving Stolen Property – N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, Burglary – N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2.

This is the most common type of theft charge in New Jersey because the taking of someone’s movable property without their permission covers almost all items that can be stolen. Property simply means anything of value, including personal property, vehicles, animals, financial instruments, information, and computer software. Movable property simply means property that can be moved.

The final element of theft by unlawful taking is the requirement that the property was taken with the intent to deprive the other person of their property. This would mean that you must have planned to keep the property of another permanently or must have planned to get rid of the property so as to make it unlikely that the owner will recover it. For example, a person who steals a piece of jewelry and sells it to a pawn shop with no plan to reclaim the property would have committed Theft by Unlawful Taking.

In order for the prosecution to convict you of Theft by Unlawful Taking, they must prove the following elements:

  • That you knowingly took movable property;
  • That the movable property belonged to someone else;
  • That your purpose was to deprive the other person of their property.



In New Jersey, the degree of the crime charged under Theft by Unlawful Taking depends on the value of the stolen items. In most cases, theft by unlawful taking is a crime of the second degree if the value is more than $75,000. Theft by unlawful taking is a crime of the third degree if the value is over $500. Theft by unlawful taking is a crime of the fourth degree if value is over $200. Finally, theft by unlawful taking is a disorderly person’s offense if the value is less than $200. The value of separate thefts can be aggregated, or added together, to create a higher total theft if the separate thefts were committed as part of one plan. In a few special types of property, theft by unlawful taking is a crime based on the types of property alleged to have been stolen.
Theft Crimes

For anyone charged with theft by unlawful taking, the results may be disastrous. Most employers run background checks on anyone applying for a job and theft by unlawful taking conviction will most likely lead to you being not hired. Not only will you lose future employment, but a conviction can result in imprisonment and loss of your freedom. In addition to jail or prison time, a court will impose significant fines, and you will have a criminal record.

Because of the significant consequences to a person charged with theft by unlawful taking, it is important to immediately hire a New Jersey theft crimes attorney as soon as you are either investigated or charged with an offense. Hiring a former prosecutor who now practices theft crimes defense can make the difference between having a conviction for a theft offense and having the case dismissed. Please contact an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney about your theft by unlawful taking case.


Attorney Douglas Herring is an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney who will help you fight your theft by unlawful taking charges. Mr. Herring is a former prosecutor in State and Federal Court. He will review your case and work with you to determine a plan to give you the best defense possible. He will file motions for you in court and he will determine how to effectively argue your case to convince the prosecutor or the judge that the case is weak and the charges should be dismissed.

Mr. Herring handles cases in New Jersey Courts, including Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth, and Hunterdon counties. Mr. Herring will go to court with you and assist in getting you released from custody and explaining to the judge why you should not be held in jail. He can also assist in having a bail bondsman in court to facilitate an immediate release from custody. When you learn there is a New Jersey theft crimes case filed against you, please contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Douglas Herring for a free consultation. You can call our office toll free at (844) NJ Accused (844-652-2287) or (609) 256-4098, (732) 339-3968, (908) 552-0828 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail. We are available every day of the year, 24 hours a day.

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