Theft Lawyer in Westfield New Jersey
July 15, 2020
Every day, throughout the world, people take things that do not belong to them. This is true in Westfield as well. Whether you are shoplifting from Baron’s Drug Store, stealing “time” from an employer, or committing car burglaries along Warren Street, you may be charged with one form of theft or another. In most cases, the type of the offense and degree of charge is determined by the value of the property stolen, the type of place it was taken from, or the very object of the theft itself. If you have been charged with a theft offense in Westfield, New Jersey, it is essential to understand the distinctions between various theft charges, whether you are accused of indictable crime (felony) or disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offense, and what you can do to successfully defend against these allegations. Talk to an experienced Westfield theft defense lawyer at our firm by calling (908)-838-0150 today. Consultations are free, and we can assist you with answers and strategic defense.
Westfield Theft Offenses
Theft is a relative term, based on the fundamental premise that you acted to take something of value from another with the intention of not giving it back. There are any number of factors that play into what specific theft crime you can be charged with and the severity of the associated punishments. And yet, the one thing that must be proven by the prosecutor in your case is that you took something (or attempted to take something), without permission, with the purpose to deprive the owner of their property.
For example, if you take your sister’s hairbrush, use it, and put it back where you found it, you did not commit a theft. The act of taking the brush may be annoying to your sister but it is unlikely a crime. On the other hand, imagine that you are a valet and oversee the parking and control over many cars each day. One day, a very nasty customer berates you in front of your boss. You become upset and ultimately take the keys to the car, drive away, and leave the state only to deliver the car to a chop shop. Needless to say, the car is never to be seen again. Your intention was to take the car and not return it; therefore, you may be found guilty of theft. A theft of this kind is chargeable under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, which covers theft of movable and immovable property. The degree would depend on the value of the item stolen, which in the case of the car, would be a third degree crime (value of $500-$75,000).
Theft can also be coined under different terms that outline the facts surrounding the offense. When it comes to charges for N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, these charges apply to those accused of stealing “movable property,” such as cars or electronics, or “immovable property,” such as property titles, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, or funds. Notably, this is only one type of offense. There are other types of theft-related offenses that are often charged as well, such as:
- Burglary: entering a structure or car with the intention of committing a crime (typically theft), a 3rd degree crime regardless of the items’ value unless you are armed with a weapon, in which case it becomes a second degree crime
- Shoplifting: taking items from a store or paying less than the retail value, degrees of crime range based on the amount taken
- Credit card fraud, a third degree crime
- Theft from bank accounts, i.e. withdrawals or unauthorized use of debit cards
- Identity theft, a third degree crime
- Fraud, a third degree crime
- Receiving stolen property, degree of crime based on amounts in the same manner as general theft
- Theft by deception, value determines the degree of crime
- Theft of services, depends on the specific service involved and whether there were multiple occasions which may be aggregated to charge a higher degree of crime
- Bad checks, contingent upon the amount allegedly stolen through the writing of bad checks
The type of offense also dictates where you will go to court. Specifically, for a disorderly persons offense, your case is in front of a judge in Westfield Municipal Court. For felony theft crimes, the case is before a judge and jury in Union County Superior Court.
Punishments and Fines in Westfield Theft Cases
Generally, the degree of theft is charged based on the value of the items subject to the theft. For instance, if you stole items valued at less than $200, you would be charged with a disorderly persons offense. For this offense, you face 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If you stole property worth more than $200 but less than $500, the police can file a fourth degree felony complaint against you, subjecting you to as much as 18 months in state prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted.
In most cases, the aggregate value of items falls between $500 and $75,000, thereby allowing for a third degree criminal complaint to be filed. For a third degree theft crime, a jail term of 3-5 years can be handed down as well as $15,000 in fines. In cases of aggregated theft offenses or high value thefts of more than $75,000, you face 5-10 years in prison, as you have been charged with a second degree crime.
All is not lost just because you have been charged with theft. For example, there are programs available such as Pre-Trial Intervention that allow for your case to be resolved without risking a conviction at trial. PTI is a good option for those who have no criminal past. It allows for your case to be dismissed after completing all of the program’s conditions. While PTI does not require a guilty plea, the charge will still be reflected on your record because you are required to be fingerprinted upon arrest. The good news is that the record can be expunged within 6 months from the date of completion of PTI. And a diversionary program like conditional dismissal in municipal court or PTI in superior court is just one scenario that may benefit you. Finding out all of your options and defenses is the best way to ensure that you reach the most favorable result.
Dedicated Westfield NJ Theft Defense Attorney Serving Your Needs
There are many different theft charges for which you may find yourself arrested in Westfield, New Jersey. Considering all of the evidence, the facts surrounding the arrest, and the statutes that apply, our attorneys can help with developing the best strategy to dismiss or resolve your case. Contact our office today at (908)-838-0150 to discuss your theft charge and your options. You can consult with a lawyer defending clients charged with theft offenses in Westfield anytime, so please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.