In New Jersey, a burglary is committed when someone unlawfully enters, or secretly remains in, a structure or vehicle with the intent to commit a crime. It does not have to involve theft at all. Although usually charged as third degree crimes, burglary can be upgraded to a second degree crime if the offender inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily harm on someone, or carries or displays what appears to be a dangerous weapon.


Taking an item without a person’s consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the item is considered theft. Theft charges in New Jersey vary greatly depending upon the item stolen and its value. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be your first objective in the event you are arrested and charged with theft, as substantial prison time can be imposed. Theft is usually a crime, except for petty theft, which can be classified as a disorderly persons offense. Theft charges are categorized as follows:

Theft-Second Degree
This is a crime that contains a presumption of state prison and is punishable up to 10 years in prison and includes any property taken with a value of at least $75,000. Other examples include extortion, shoplifting property in excess of $75,000 and the taking of human remains, a controlled dangerous substance in excess of one kilogram or a person’s government healthcare benefits with a value of at least $75,000.

Theft-Third Degree
This is a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years if the item stolen has a value of $500 to $75,000. Shoplifting items with a value of $500 to $75,000 is a third degree crime. Stolen items that constitute a third degree theft are firearms, cars, vessels, boats, horses, domestic companion animals, airplanes prescription blanks and a person’s healthcare benefits that have a value of less than $75,000.

Theft-Fourth Degree
This is a crime that carries a maximum prison sentence of 18 months and pertains to cases in which the items stolen have a value of more than $200 and up to $500. Shoplifting between $200 and $500 and theft of a credit card are typical examples.

Disorderly Person and Petty Theft
Taking something valued under $200 is a petty theft and is considered a disorderly person’s offense with a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in jail. Most shoplifting charges are in this category. Most shoplifters are adults although juveniles constitute about 25 percent of offenders. Shoplifting is classified as a petty theft the items are valued under $200. Otherwise, shoplifting can be charged as crime.

Anyone arrested should immediately refuse to answer any questions and ask to speak to an attorney. Even if you feel you are not guilty, speaking to an officer or making a statement is a mistake as any trivial misstatement or error in memory can be a basis for a conviction. Theft and burglary charges are serious and no one can afford to place their liberty or future in jeopardy. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can examine your legal options and present viable defenses. They can also offer mitigating circumstances in your defense that can persuade a judge or prosecutor to dismiss your case, to admit you to a pre-trial diversionary program, to reduce the charges to an offense or lesser degree crime or probation only. Do not delay!

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen S. Weinstein, P.C.
for your free personal consultation today.

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