Theft by Unlawful Taking in New Jersey

There are several different kinds of theft according to New Jersey law. There is theft by unlawful taking (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3), theft by deception (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4) and theft by extortion (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5). When most people think of theft, they are thinking of theft by unlawful taking (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3). If you have or think you might have committed an act of theft, here is what you need to know.

What is Theft by Unlawful Taking?

A person can be charged with theft if he/she unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive the other thereof. A person can also commit theft of immovable property (e.g. real estate). The charge would apply to any person who unlawfully transfers interest in immovable property of another person with purpose to benefit himself or another not entitled to it.

What Are the Penalties for Theft in New Jersey?

The punishment for a conviction of theft by unlawful taking vary with the value of the goods stolen.

Value of Goods Severity of Charge Incarceration Fine
Less than $200 Disorderly persons offense Up to 6 months in jail Up to $1,000
$200 to $500 Fourth-degree felony Up to 18 months in jail Up to $10,000
$500 to $75,000 Third-degree felony 3 to 5 years in prison Up to $10,000
More than $75,000 Second-degree felony 5 to 10 years in prison Up to $15,000


Other factors beyond the value of the goods stolen can affect the severity of the charge. For example, the following situations could result in a third-degree felony indictment even if the value is less than $500:

  • The property stolen is a firearm;
  • The property stolen is less than one kilogram of a controlled substance;
  • The theft is a breach of obligation by a fiduciary;
  • The property stolen is a New Jersey prescription blank.

Theft can also be charged as first-degree felony if the crime was committed in conjunction with a violent crime, such as aggravated assault, robbery, carjacking or rape. The penalties for a conviction of first-degree felony theft are up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.

How Can You Beat a Charge of Theft by Unlawful Taking in NJ?

Regardless of the circumstances or the severity of the charge, it is urgent that you hire an attorney to help you avoid a conviction for theft. In order to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you are not the lawful owner of the property, that you took the property without permission of the true owner, and that you intended to deprive the owner of the property in question. A charge of theft can be dismissed if evidence can be presented that disproves one or more of those factors.

In some cases, however, this may not be possible. When that happens, there are other ways to avoid a conviction and possible criminal record known generally as “diversion”:

Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI): If you are a first-time offender and otherwise eligible an attorney can help you enroll in a Pretrial Intervention Program. If you are accepted and complete the program, you can avoid having a criminal conviction on your record.

Conditional Dismissal: A conditional dismissal program is similar to PTI. Like PTI, it is only available to first-time offenders charged with disorderly persons offenses (not felonies), and those offenders cannot have participated previously in any other conditional dismissal or PTI program.

Who Should You Call if You Are Charged with Theft in NJ?

If you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by unlawful taking or for any other criminal offense in New Jersey, you need the help of an attorney to examine your case and determine the best course to mitigate or avoid the consequences. 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.