Property crimes include a wide range of crimes involving theft or destruction of someone else’s property. The levels of severity and penalties for different types property crimes vary by state. An experienced Freehold criminal defense lawyer can advise clients on what steps to take if one is accused of a property crime in New Jersey.
Arson is the intentional burning of land or structures. It is one of the most serious property crimes on the books. Penalties are especially severe if the arsonist started a fire with the intention to injure another person or defraud an insurance company. Generally, arson is classified as a felony and is punishable by jail time.
Burglary is the illegal entry into another individual’s home, business, or other structure with the intent to steal something or commit some other type of crime. Burglary usually happens by coercion or force. One does not have to steal property or commit a crime once inside the structure to have committed burglary. Just the attempt alone to unlawfully enter a building constitutes burglary.
Larceny is a term that is often interchangeable with theft. It refers to the taking of something of value from another person without their consent. Someone who commits larceny intends to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property.
Robbery is the threat of force or use of force to take money and/or property from another person. An example would be someone pointing a gun at another person and demanding they hand over their wallet. In New Jersey, robbery is a serious crime, punishable by fines of more than $100,000 and a decade or more in jail.
Robbery has historically fallen under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, which requires mandatory lengthy sentences for certain crimes. However, a bill recently introduced in the state legislature (A4369) would reduce mandatory jail time for second-degree robbery and burglary by half.
When someone conceals and steals property that is for sale on commercial premises, such as a convenience store or supermarket, that is considered shoplifting. The total value of the items stolen determines the seriousness of a shoplifting offense and the penalties that follow. In addition to criminal penalties, shoplifting in New Jersey comes with civil penalties. A person who commits shoplifting in the state is required to pay the merchant the following:
- The value of the merchandise (not to exceed $500)
- A civil penalty payable directly to the merchant of up to $150
- Additional damages resulting from the crime
Theft is the intentional act of permanently depriving another person of their property. New Jersey law specifically refers to exercising control and unlawful taking of property that belongs to someone else. In the state, there are several different specific types of theft:
- Receiving stolen property: knowingly accepting items that were intentionally taken from another
- Theft by deception: intentionally taking someone’s property under false pretenses
- Theft by extortion: using threats to deprive someone of their property
- Theft of lost property: taking property that has been delivered to one’s home by mistake, for example
- Theft of services: obtaining valuable services from another through deception, force, threats, or other illegal means
- Shoplifting: described above; stealing from a commercial store is a form of theft
Degrees of Theft and Penalties in New Jersey
As with shoplifting, all forms of theft are generally classified according to the value of the items or services stolen from another person. When theft involves violence or the threat of violence, the offense is likely to bring stiffer penalties. The following is an overview of the different levels of theft in New Jersey and possible penalties for each:
Disorderly Persons Offense
If the total value of property or services stolen is less than $200, the crime is considered a disorderly person’s offense. It is also called petty theft in some jurisdictions. Fines for a petty theft conviction include up to six months in jail and/or fines up to $1,000.
If the property or services stolen is valued between $200 and $500, the theft is a crime of the fourth degree in the state of New Jersey. A person convicted of fourth-degree theft faces fines of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail.
Theft is considered a crime of the third degree if it meets certain criteria, including the following:
- If the property is taken from the victim’s person
- If the property taken is a New Jersey prescription blank
- If the property taken is a controlled dangerous substance amounting to less than a kilogram and valued at less than $75,000
A convention of third-degree theft in New Jersey brings three to five years of jail time and fines of up to $15,000.
In New Jersey, theft is classified as a crime of the second degree if it occurs under the following conditions:
- The property is human remains.
- The value of the service/property taken is at least $75,000.
- The property is a controlled substance more than 1 kilogram.
- The property is taken by extortion.
Penalties for second-degree theft include between five and 10 years in jail and up to $150,000 in fines. It should be noted that if the double the monetary value of loss to the victim exceeds the fines listed for each degree of theft, the higher dollar amount prevails.
Restitution for Theft
In addition to the penalties mention above, individuals convicted of theft can also be required to make restitution to the victim. Restitution requires a convicted person to repay any economic losses resulting from the crime, including lost wages, property damage, and medical bills.
Motor Vehicle Theft
Stealing a car is a property crime that comes with additional penalties. In New Jersey, an individual who steals a motor vehicle is required to pay a $500 penalty and has their license suspended for a year. Second and third offenses bring more costly monetary fines and longer license suspensions.
Vandalism is the intentional defacing, degrading, or destroying of someone else’s property without their permission. Vandalism is sometimes called criminal mischief, malicious mischief, or criminal damage. Graffiti, breaking windows, or slashing tires are common examples of vandalism.
Property Crime Rates in New Jersey
Recent data on property crimes in New Jersey offer some good news. Over the past decade, arson, theft, and other property crimes have declined steadily. Last year, there were approximately 1,300 property crimes per 100,000 people. That is lower than the national rate of more than 2,000 per 100,000 people. In 2019, 118,637 property crimes occurred across New Jersey, which included the following:
- 10,336 motor vehicle thefts
- 16,399 burglaries
- 91,901 larceny-thefts
The actual breakdown of violent and non-violent crimes varied greatly by county, likely in part because of differences in local policies and policing.
What Should I Do If I am Accused of a Property Crime in New Jersey?
It is a common misconception that penalties for property crimes are light because they do not usually endanger the safety or well-being of others. That is not always the case, especially when the stolen or damaged goods are of great value. Threats, weapons, and property crimes involving violence can also bring severe penalties. Anyone who has been charged with a property crime should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Knowing more about how New Jersey classifies different crimes and assigns penalties can help clients make informed choices regarding their case.
The right criminal defense lawyer does not treat a client like a number. They take the time and care to fully understand the incident and proceed diligently to prevent a conviction, based on the facts. In the United States, every individual has the right to defend themselves and their livelihood in a court of law.
Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Those Charged with Property Crimes in New Jersey
Being charged with any type of property crime in New Jersey is an unnerving experience. Whether you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, or you dispute the charges altogether, you can trust the Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law to use all legal means available to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Our goal is to prevent a conviction and minimize the impact of a charge on your life. To learn more about how we can help, call 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free case consultation. Centrally located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.