Understanding Your Rights: New Jersey Theft Laws Explained in Detail

As a New Jersey resident, it’s crucial to understand the state’s theft laws in order to protect your rights and freedom. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the various aspects of New Jersey theft laws, from understanding theft charges to the penalties and defenses associated with these crimes. We’ll also provide tips on hiring the best theft defense lawyer and preventing theft charges in the future.

Understanding Theft Charges in NJ

Theft charges in New Jersey are diverse and can range from minor offenses like shoplifting to more serious crimes like auto theft and identity theft. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common theft charges and their implications.


Shoplifting is one of the most common theft charges in New Jersey. It involves taking merchandise from a retail store without paying for it or attempting to pay less than the full value of the item. Shoplifting can also include altering price tags, transferring items to another container, or concealing merchandise with the intent to steal.

Auto Theft

Auto theft, also known as grand theft auto, involves stealing a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. This theft offense is more serious than shoplifting due to the high value of motor vehicles and the potential for danger to others when the stolen vehicle is used.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that involves using another person’s personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, or credit card details, without their permission. This crime can lead to significant financial loss for the victim and may result in severe legal consequences for the perpetrator.


Embezzlement is a form of theft that occurs when someone entrusted with the responsibility of managing or controlling another person’s property or funds takes those assets for their own personal gain. This crime is most commonly committed by employees who have access to their employer’s finances.

Penalties for Theft in New Jersey

The severity of penalties for theft in New Jersey depends on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances surrounding the crime. Theft offenses can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies.


Misdemeanor theft charges typically involve stolen property valued at less than $200. Penalties for misdemeanor theft can include fines, probation, restitution, and up to 6 months in jail.


Felony theft charges involve stolen property valued at $200 or more. Penalties for felony theft can include higher fines, longer probation periods, restitution, and imprisonment for up to 10 years, depending on the value of the stolen property and the defendant’s criminal history.

NJ Theft Statutes

New Jersey theft laws are governed by several statutes that outline the specific elements of each type of theft crime. In this section, we’ll discuss three key statutes.

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, also known as the theft statute, defines theft as the unlawful taking or exercising control over another person’s property with the intent to deprive them of its benefits. This statute covers various forms of theft, including shoplifting, auto theft, and embezzlement.

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7, the receiving stolen property statute, makes it illegal to knowingly receive, dispose of, or bring stolen property into New Jersey with the intent to benefit from it. This statute can apply to individuals who purchase stolen goods or those who help others sell stolen items.

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8, the theft of services statute, prohibits obtaining services without paying the full value or attempting to avoid payment by deception, threats, or other means. This statute covers scenarios such as skipping out on a restaurant bill or using someone else’s cable or internet services without their permission.

Defending Against Theft Charges in NJ

There are several strategies that can be employed to defend against theft charges in New Jersey. In this section, we’ll discuss three common defenses.

Lack of Intent

A key element of theft charges is the intent to deprive the owner of their property. If you can prove that you did not have the intent to steal, you may be able to have the charges dismissed.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact defense involves showing that you believed you had the right to possess or use the property in question. This defense can be used in cases where you were given permission to use the property or genuinely believed the property was your own.

Consent is a valid defense in theft cases where the owner of the property gave you permission to take or use the item. However, the burden of proof lies with the defendant to demonstrate that consent was given.

Best Theft Defense Strategies

When facing theft charges in New Jersey, it’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney to develop a strong defense strategy. In this section, we’ll discuss three key elements of a successful theft defense.

Gathering Evidence

Gathering evidence is essential in building a strong defense against theft charges. This can include witness statements, surveillance footage, or documentation that supports your claims.

Negotiating Plea Deals

In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of charges. This can be an effective strategy if the evidence against you is strong, and a trial may not result in a favorable outcome.

Challenging the Prosecution’s Case

Challenging the prosecution’s case involves pointing out weaknesses, inconsistencies, or gaps in their evidence. Your attorney can use this strategy to create reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind and potentially lead to a not guilty verdict.

Hiring a Theft Defense Lawyer in NJ

When facing theft charges in New Jersey, it’s crucial to hire a qualified theft defense lawyer to protect your rights and build a strong defense. In this section, we’ll discuss the key factors to consider when searching for an attorney.

Experience and Specialization

Choose a lawyer with experience in handling theft cases and a strong track record of successful outcomes. A specialized attorney will have a deep understanding of New Jersey theft laws and will be better equipped to defend your case.

Communication and Trust

It’s essential to find an attorney with whom you can communicate openly and feel comfortable discussing the details of your case. Trust is crucial, as you’ll need to rely on their advice and expertise throughout the legal process.

Legal Fees and Payment Options

Legal fees can vary widely depending on the complexity of your case and the attorney’s experience. Be sure to discuss payment options and fee structures upfront to ensure you can afford the representation you need.

NJ Criminal Defense Attorney for Theft Cases: The Importance of Expertise

Retaining an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney for theft cases is crucial to ensure the best possible outcome. An attorney with expertise in theft cases can identify the best defense strategies, negotiate plea deals, and challenge the prosecution’s case, increasing the chances of a favorable resolution.

Tips for Preventing Theft Charges in the Future

To avoid facing theft charges in the future, consider the following tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid situations where theft may occur.
  • Keep your personal belongings secure and out of sight.
  • Do not share your personal information with strangers or untrustworthy individuals.
  • Be cautious when making online purchases and only use secure websites.
  • If you witness potential theft, report it to the appropriate authorities.

Conclusion: Understanding Your Rights and Seeking Professional Help

By understanding New Jersey theft laws and the associated penalties, you’ll be better equipped to protect your rights if you find yourself facing theft charges. If you’re accused of theft, it’s crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced theft defense lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process and develop a strong defense strategy. Additionally, taking steps to prevent theft charges in the future can help you avoid the stress and potential consequences of a theft conviction.

CTA: If you’re facing theft charges in New Jersey, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced theft defense attorney to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Protecting your rights and freedom is paramount, and expert legal representation can make all the difference in achieving the best possible outcome.