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Facing Theft Charges in New Jersey? Here’s What You Should Know

When it comes to theft charges, navigating the legal system can be a daunting experience. In New Jersey, like in most states, theft is a criminal offense that carries significant consequences if you’re found guilty. It’s crucial to understand the various aspects of theft charges, including the types of theft, legal processes, penalties, potential defenses, and the importance of legal representation. This comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights into theft charges in New Jersey, helping you make informed decisions during this challenging time.

Types of Theft: Different Categories and Their Nuances

Before delving into the legal processes and penalties associated with theft charges in New Jersey, it’s essential to grasp the different categories of theft. The state classifies theft offenses based on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances surrounding the crime. Here are the primary types of theft:

Petty Theft (Disorderly Persons Offense)

Petty theft, often referred to as “shoplifting,” is the least serious form of theft in New Jersey. This type of theft involves the unlawful taking of property with a value of less than $200. While petty theft is considered a disorderly persons offense, it still carries potential consequences, including fines and possible jail time.

Theft by Deception

Theft by deception occurs when an individual intentionally deceives someone to obtain their property or services. This form of theft can involve various scams and fraudulent activities. The severity of the charge depends on the value of the property or services obtained through deception.

Theft by Extortion

Extortion is a serious criminal offense that involves obtaining property, money, or services from someone through threats, coercion, or intimidation. In New Jersey, theft by extortion is treated as a felony and carries significant penalties.

Theft of Property

Theft of property is a broad category that encompasses various theft offenses, such as stealing items from a store, breaking into a home, or taking someone’s personal belongings. The severity of the charge depends on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances of the theft.

Auto Theft

Stealing a vehicle is a distinct form of theft, known as auto theft. In New Jersey, auto theft is treated as a serious crime and can result in substantial penalties, including imprisonment.

Understanding the legal processes and potential penalties associated with theft charges is crucial for anyone facing such allegations in New Jersey. The steps involved in the legal process for theft charges can be summarized as follows:

Arrest and Initial Charges

When you are accused of theft, the legal process typically begins with your arrest. Law enforcement will conduct an investigation, and if there is enough evidence to suggest your involvement in the theft, you will be taken into custody. During this stage, it’s essential to exercise your right to remain silent and seek legal representation.

Initial Appearance

After your arrest, you will have an initial appearance before a judge. At this stage, you will be informed of the charges against you and have the opportunity to enter a plea. It’s advisable to have legal representation by this point to ensure your rights are protected.


The judge will determine whether you are eligible for bail and, if so, the amount of bail required for your release. A skilled defense attorney can help present your case for lower bail or no bail if possible.

Pre-Trial Proceedings

During the pre-trial phase, both the prosecution and defense will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare their respective cases. Your attorney will work to build a strong defense strategy and may seek to have charges reduced or dismissed.


If a plea bargain cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. The outcome will depend on the evidence presented and the effectiveness of your legal representation. It’s crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to navigate the complexities of a theft trial.


If you are found guilty, the judge will determine the appropriate penalties. These penalties may include fines, restitution to the victim, probation, community service, or even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.


If you believe there was a miscarriage of justice during your trial, you have the right to appeal your conviction. An experienced defense attorney can help you navigate the appeal process.

Possible Defense Mechanisms: How to Protect Your Rights

When facing theft charges in New Jersey, it’s important to explore potential defense mechanisms to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case. Here are some common defense strategies used in theft cases:

Lack of Intent

One of the primary elements of theft is intent. If your attorney can demonstrate that you did not have the intent to commit theft, it can be a strong defense. For example, if you accidentally took an item without realizing it, this lack of intent can be a compelling argument.

Mistaken Identity

In some cases, individuals are wrongfully accused due to a mistaken identity. Your attorney can gather evidence and witness testimonies to show that you were not the person who committed the theft.

Insufficient Evidence

A strong defense can be built on the premise that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney may challenge the credibility of witnesses, the reliability of surveillance footage, or the accuracy of the evidence presented.


Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces an individual to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. If your attorney can prove that you were entrapped, it can be a valid defense strategy.

Constitutional Violations

Your attorney may examine the circumstances of your arrest and the collection of evidence to identify any constitutional violations, such as illegal search and seizure. If such violations are found, the evidence may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution’s case.

Navigating the legal complexities of theft charges in New Jersey can be challenging, and the stakes are high. Therefore, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of seeking legal representation from a specialized criminal defense attorney. Here are several reasons why hiring an experienced attorney is essential:

Legal Expertise

An attorney with expertise in theft cases will have an in-depth understanding of New Jersey’s theft laws, legal procedures, and potential defenses. They can assess your situation and develop a tailored defense strategy based on their knowledge and experience.

Protection of Your Rights

A skilled attorney will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected throughout the legal process. They will advise you on when to remain silent, help you navigate interactions with law enforcement, and work to prevent any violations of your rights.

Defense Strategy

An attorney will analyze the evidence against you, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and develop a strong defense strategy. They will leverage their legal expertise to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.

Negotiation Skills

Experienced attorneys are skilled negotiators who can work with the prosecution to seek reduced charges, plea bargains, or alternative sentencing options that may be more favorable to you.

Courtroom Advocacy

If your case goes to trial, having a dedicated attorney by your side is invaluable. They will present your case effectively, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution.

Emotional Support

Facing theft charges can be emotionally taxing. A knowledgeable attorney can provide emotional support and guidance throughout the legal process, helping you cope with the stress and uncertainty of your situation.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer at Attorneys Hartman, Chartered for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

At the end of your search for legal guidance in New Jersey, you’ll find Attorneys Hartman, Chartered—a beacon of hope and expertise in the complex world of theft charges. Our firm stands apart with a commitment to personalized, compassionate, and vigorous defense for each client. As New Jersey-based attorneys, we bring a nuanced understanding of state-specific theft laws and legal procedures.

Whether it’s petty theft or more serious charges, our approach is thorough, tailored, and aimed at securing the best possible outcome for you. We believe in a partnership that values your voice and perspective, ensuring you’re informed and empowered at every step. Our history of successful case resolutions speaks to our dedication and expertise in theft defense.

Facing legal challenges can be daunting, but you don’t have to face them alone. Trust in the experience and dedication of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered. Contact us today for a free consultation. Let’s discuss your case and explore how we can protect your rights and craft a strong defense on your behalf.

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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
Map + Directions