In 2018, there were over 107,000 reported non-violent crimes across New Jersey. Criminal offenses that involve property or theft are among the most common. Those facing such charges should know that significant penalties may be imposed such as jail time, fines, probation, and others. There are also other potentially adverse consequences. Having a criminal record can hinder you when pursuing future employment opportunities or housing.
New Jersey Defense Attorney for Property Crimes
If you have been charged with a property or theft-related crime, you may be unsure about what to do. It is critical that you receive fair treatment and access to justice. The Lento Law Firm has many years of experience representing individuals in these and many other types of criminal matters. We will assist you in navigating the legal system and developing a comprehensive defense strategy. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.
Initial Stages of Criminal Actions in New Jersey
- Pre-arraignment: Your initial court visit. You may obtain a copy of an indictment, which states the charge(s) and some facts pertaining to the case. It is important to seek experienced legal counsel.
- Arraignment: This is your first appearance before a judge. You may be accompanied by your attorney who will assist you with stating a plea.
- Pre-trial intervention (PTI): Some first-time offenders in New Jersey are able to qualify for PTI. This is a diversionary option that allows offenders to complete a program that may lead to having the charges dismissed. Your attorney may discuss this further with you when applicable.
- Status conference: This is a hearing that may be held to update the status of a case. The outcomes of rulings may be shared and there may be negotiations among parties regarding a potential resolution.
Common Crimes Involving Property and Theft
Arson in the third-degree occurs when an individual recklessly starts a fire or creates an explosion that may place another person in danger or damage or destroy a building, structure, or forest. The charge may be a second-degree “aggravated” arson offense when someone intentionally creates a fire or explosion that they know places another person in danger or is likely to damage or destroy a building, structure, or forest. A first-degree charge applies when someone is hired or paid to commit these acts.
This occurs when someone knowingly writes (passes) a check that will not be honored by the bank. New Jersey law considers these crimes a disorderly offense when the amount is under $200 and a fourth-degree crime when between $200 and $1000. A third-degree charge applies between $1,000 and $75,000 and second-degree if in excess of $75,000.
This occurs when an individual unlawfully enters a structure or dwelling to commit a criminal offense. The term unlawfully implies the party was not licensed, privileged, or given permission to enter. The charge is typically a third-degree offense; however, becomes a second-degree offense if the intruder is armed or attempts to cause bodily injury.
An individual who commits criminal mischief has knowingly damaged someone's real property. The damage is often the result of trespassing or vandalism. When the loss is under $500 it is considered a disorderly offense; however, it may escalate to a fourth or third-degree offense at thresholds of $500 and $2,000.
Those who are criminally trespassing are those who unlawfully enter a structure. The offender does this despite knowing that they are not permitted to be there. It is ordinarily a disorderly offense; however, may escalate to a fourth-degree offense when trespassing in a school or research site.
Acts of forgery involve altering, defacing, or otherwise changing some form of an access device for unlawful purposes. Proving forgery requires that the offender acted with intent to defraud using a forged instrument that is presented as being genuine. It is a fourth-degree crime but escalates to the third-degree when it involves governmental or property-related documents, investment vehicles, medical prescriptions and more.
Impersonation (Identity Theft)
To prove criminal theft of identity it must be proven that the offender intentionally “impersonated or assumed a false identity” in efforts to obtain some benefit or to injure or defraud someone. It is a fourth-degree crime for first-time offenders involving less than $500. The crime rises to a third or second-degree offense when exceeding thresholds of $500 and $75,000.
Receiving Stolen Property
An individual may be guilty of theft when they receive property that they either know or believe is likely to be stolen. The degree of the crime is based on the value of the property. It is a disorderly person offense when less than $200 and a fourth-degree offense when between $200 and $500. The crime rises to a third or second-degree offense when exceeding thresholds of $500 and $75,000.
Shoplifting (carrying away) is when the offender intentionally assumes possession of retail merchandise without paying for it. It is deemed a disorderly person's offense when valued at under $200 and a fourth-degree offense when valued between $200 and $500. The crime escalates to a third or second-degree offense upon crossing thresholds of $500 and $75,000.
Unlawful Taking of Means of Conveyance (Motor Vehicle)
Unlawfully taking a motor vehicle is a lesser offense compared to motor vehicle theft. In these cases, the offender assumes control of another person's automobile or other means of transportation temporarily. It is often referred to as “joyriding” a vehicle. This crime is generally a fourth-degree offense; however, it may be third-degree when the vehicle is operated in a reckless manner that could create injuries or property damage.
Understanding Criminal Sentencing & Penalties in New Jersey
The state's Code of Criminal Justice first went into effect in 1979 in Title 2C of the statutes. New Jersey does not use the classifications of misdemeanor and felony charges. Crimes are separated as either indictable crimes or disorderly person offenses. Prior to State v. Natale in 2005, the courts used presumptive sentences. For example, crimes of the first-degree had a defined term of imprisonment of between 10 and 20 years. Today, sentencing guidelines are more complex and courts have greater latitude regarding non-violent offender sentencing.
Some of these include:
- Interventional and diversionary programs with alternative sentencing for many first-time offenders
- The ability to “downgrade” sentences when “mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating ones”
- More stringent minimum prison sentences when a defendant is armed
- More stringent minimum prison sentences when deemed a “crime of violence” and more
Levels Specifically for Theft Crimes
Value of Property
$75,000 or over
$500 to $75,000
$200 to $500
Disorderly Person Offense
Legal Representation for Property Crimes and Theft Offenses in New Jersey
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent many years aggressively defending clients in criminal matters. You deserve to know that your rights are protected. For a free initial consultation call the office today at (888) 535-3686 today.