While you can buy “No Parking” signs at Home Depot or fake stop signs on Amazon.com, some people have been known to swipe the real deal right off the street. To young people it can seem like harmless fun to snag a street sign or traffic sign. Unfortunately, the consequences can be more serious than you may think.
Any kind of traffic or street sign is considered government property. So if you pluck the sign for “Lois Lane” off its post, you have committed an act of theft. The penalties depend on the cost of the sign to the town, village, or county that technically owns it. Those costs can vary depending the material it was made of and the contract that the municipality has with the manufacturer. Some signs can be purchased for less than $50 per unit. Others may cost $200 or more. The municipality may also factor in the cost of labor to replace the sign in the charges, which can run well over $500 per sign.
Stealing property that does not belong to you is charged as theft by unlawful taking (N.J.S.C. 2C:20-3). If you are accused of stealing less than $200 worth of property, then the charge is a disorderly persons offense, which carries a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If the cost is more than $200 but less than $500, then it is a fourth-degree crime that could result in up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000. For signage that costs more than $500 but less than $75,000, it is a third-degree crime and the penalty can be between three and five years in prison, plus a fine of up to $15,000.
These aren’t the only consequences you might face. You could also be charged with criminal mischief for vandalism or property destruction (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3) if, in the process of stealing the sign, you break the brackets or post that held it. If the damage is valued at less than $500, you could be convicted of a disorderly persons offense, possibly adding an additional six months of jail time to your sentence. If the damage is valued between $500 and $2,000, you could be convicted of a fourth-degree crime, which could potentially add another 18 months to your sentence.
If you or someone you love has been charged with theft or vandalism for stealing a street sign, or any other criminal offense in New Jersey, don’t wait – contact an attorney immediately to protect yourself and your rights. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.