There are many types of theft offenses, and a discussion of each of them is beyond the scope of this page. Here is a brief description of three of the most common types of theft offenses.
Receiving Stolen Property - Under New Jersey law, this offense occurs when someone knowingly receives or transports movable property belonging to another person, knowing that it is stolen or believing that it is probably stolen. To convict someone of this offense, the prosecutor must show that: (a) the property at issue belonged to someone else; (b) that the property was stolen; (c) that the defendant knew it was stolen or believed it was probably stolen; (d) That the defendant had possession or, or control over, the property; and (e) that the offense was committed knowingly.
The knowledge element is central to the offense. Knowledge is presumed where the defendant possessed two or more items of stolen property on two or more occasions. Knowledge is also presumed where the defendant received stolen property in another transaction within the year preceding the transaction underlying the current case. Knowledge is presumed where the defendant is in the business of buying and selling the kind of property at issue, and acquired the property that gave rise to the charges without making sufficient inquiry as to its status. There is also a presumption if the defendant possesses two or more defaced access devices ( e.g., telephone calling card number, credit card number, or account number.
Possession is key to this offense. In this regard, it is important to remember that possession can be actual or constructive. By way of example, someone has actual possession when they are literally holding the object at issue in their hand. Someone can constructively possess something when they can control it or gain access to it, even if they may not be physically holding it at any given moment. Our law recognizes both types of possession.
The degree of the charge depends on the dollar value of the property involved. If the value is greater than $75,000, the charge will be second degree. This exposes the defendant to up to 10 years in prison, plus fines, penalties and restitution. If the value is between $500 and $75,000, the charge will be third degree, exposing the defendant to up to five years in prison plus fines, penalties and restitution. If the value is between $200 and $500, it is fourth degree offense (up to 18 month is prison, plus fines, penalties and restitution). The defendant will be charged with a disorderly persons offense if the property is less than $200.
Theft by Unlawful Taking - Under New Jersey law, this offense refers to two types of property - movable property and immovable property. A defendant can be convicted of theft of movable property if he unlawfully takes or controls someone's else's movable property with the purpose to deprive that person of the property. A defendant can be guilty of theft of immovable property if he or she transfers an interest in the property with the purpose of benefitting himself, herself, or another, who is not entitled to the property. So, to establish this offense, the prosecutor must show: (a) a taking of or exercising of control over, movable or immovable property; and (b) with the purpose to deprive the rightful owner of the property, or to benefit the recipient.
The grading of the offense (second degree through disorderly persons offense), as well as the penalties, are similar to that discussed above for the crime of receiving stolen property.
Theft by Deception - This offense stems from the making of false promises or false representations that result in unlawfully depriving people of their property. To be convicted, the prosecutor must show that the defendant knowingly or purposefully obtained the property of another by means of deception. This can occur where the defendant: (a) creates or reinforces false impressions; (b) prevents another from obtaining information that would affect their decision concerning a given transaction; (c) fails to correct a false impression that they created.
The grading of this offense is similar to that discussed above for the offense of receiving stolen property, as are the penalties.
Other theft offenses include shoplifting, fencing, and theft of services. Like receiving stolen property, theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception, each has its own elements that the prosecutor must prove to establish guilt, as well as a range of penalties. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you whether or not a prosecutor can establish your guilt of the charged theft offense beyond a reasonable doubt, as well as the penalties that may apply in your case.
Have you been charged with a theft or fraud offense? If so, do not make any statements to any law enforcement representative. Instead, contact New Brunswick criminal defense attorney James S. Friedman to discuss your case and your defense.