The law distinguishes between many different kinds of theft; those relating to computer criminal activities, motor vehicle theft, theft from a grave site, theft of services, and racketeering to a name a few. The common connection linking all of the different theft crimes together is that theft involves an unlawful taking of another’s property with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.

How serious a theft is depends on the amount taken, or in some instances, on what is taken. The following chart illustrates the different degrees of theft.

Degree of Crime Property Taken
2 $75,000 or more; more than one Kilo of drugs; or Human remains
3 More than $500 but less than $75,000; firearm; or Vehicle
4 More than $200 but less than $500.
Disorderly Persons Offense Less than $200.


2C:20-2.1. Theft of a motor vehicle. Prescribes mandatory fines and penalties for stealing a car beyond those normally allowable in the law. For a first offense, in addition to any other punishment, a person convicted of stealing a car shall be fined $500 and lose their driver’s license for 1 year. A second offense raises the fine to $750 and a two year suspension. A third offense imposes a $1000 fine and loss of the right to drive for 10 years.


2C:20-7. Receiving Stolen Property. A person is guilty of theft if they knowingly receive property that they know (or should know) is stolen.


2C:20-8. Theft of Services. A person is guilty of theft if they purposely obtain services which they know are available only for money, by deception or threat, fake coin, or through fraudulent statement to avoid payment. Common examples of such services include:

  • Transportation – Not paying cab fare or bus fare
  • Cable or internet
  • Hotels and restaurants – Leaving without paying.


2C:20-11. Shoplifting. Whether it’s for the thrill of it, a compulsion you can’t control, or a real need, shoplifting occurs when a person takes, conceals, or alters merchandise or price tags in an attempt to purchase the item for less than the full retail value. In addition to any other sentence a Court can impose based upon the value of the property taken, a conviction for shoplifting comes with a mandatory community services requirement of 10 days for a first offense, 15 days for a second offense, and for a third or subsequent offense the law requires up to 25 days community service and a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment of not less than 90 days.


2C:15-1. Robbery. Robbery is a theft plus force or threats of force. Robbery is a 2nd degree crime except it is a 1st degree crime if the defendant while committing the robbery tries to kill anyone, inflicts serious bodily injury, or is armed with a deadly weapon.


2C:15-2. Carjacking. Carjacking is the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle with force, causing bodily injury, making threats of bodily injury, or driving off with an innocent person still inside the car. No matter the value of the car you steal, carjacking is a 1st degree crime carrying a prison sentence between 10-30 years with a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence. Expert counsel will be required to avoid a long prison sentence for a carjacking charge.


2C:18-2. Burglary. A person commits burglary if with the purpose to commit an offense therein they 1) enter a structure (building or room) or 2) secretly remain once inside knowing they do not have permission to do so. The grading of burglary is as follows:

2nd degree if the person purposely, knowingly, or recklessly inflicts, or attempts to inflict bodily injury on anyone, or is armed with what is or appears to be a deadly weapon. Otherwise burglary is a crime of the 3rd degree.


2C:18-3. Unlicensed entry of structures. A fourth degree crime similar to burglary but the defendant does not have the intent to commit an offense once inside. Going in or remaining inside a structure is enough to complete the act.


2C:18-3b. Defiant trespasser. A petty disorderly persons offense that involves a person going onto any property either clearly labeled NO TRESPASSING or enclosed with a fence.


2C:18-3c. Peering into windows. A 4th degree crime when the defendant knowing they are not allowed to, peer into a window in order to invade another’s privacy under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.

Defenses applicable to 2C:18-3a through c. The law carves out three defenses to unlicensed entry, defiant trespasser, and peering. These include: 1. The structure was abandoned. 2. The structure was open to the public. 3. The defendant reasonably believed that the owner would have allowed himself inside or to peer in. Competent counsel may be able to argue that the acts performed either do not result in the charges above or that one of the affirmative defenses apply.

If you are facing a Theft, Robbery, or Burglary charge consider hiring a criminal lawyer to ensure the best possible outcome to your case.

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