NJ Theft by Deception Charges and Penalties
Hackensack & Morristown Attorneys serving Bergen, Morris, Essex County, and Surrounding NJ Communities
Theft by deception is a specific type of theft crime governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4. The part of this offense that distinguishes it from others is that a person acquires or obtains the money or property of another by creating or reinforcing a false impression. In other words, if you lead someone to believe something that isn’t true for financial gain, you may be charged with theft by deception in New Jersey. The penalties associated with a criminal conviction for theft by deception depend on the value of the stolen property involved in the specific case. Continue reading for an explanation of theft by deception offenses in New Jersey.
2C:20-4 Theft by Deception Statute
Theft by Deception charges are governed by section N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 of the New Jersey Statutes, which states:
A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains property of another by deception. A person deceives if he purposely:
a. Creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind, and including, but not limited to, a false impression that the person is soliciting or collecting funds for a charitable purpose; but deception as to a person’s intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;
b. Prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction; or
c. Fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.
The term “deceive” does not, however, include falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance, or puffing or exaggeration by statements unlikely to deceive ordinary persons in the group addressed.
Theft by Deception Explained
In order to be found guilty of theft by deception, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Creates or reinforces a false impression about the law or the value of an item
- Hid crucial information about a transaction from another person; or
- Failed to correct a false impression that you previously created or know to be influencing another person
It does not matter if the person who was deceived should have known better. The law is meant to protect the most helpless individuals. That’s why an offender cannot trick an elderly person into sending them money and then claim that the elderly person did not act reasonably. All that matters is that the other person relied upon the offender’s words or actions. Additionally, keep in mind that you can be charged with Theft by Deception even if you did not explicitly communicate in the form of words or writing. That’s because failing to correct a false impression is also a violation of the law.
An important requirement of the law is that the deception must pertain to a matter of pecuniary or financial significance. Merely boasting or exaggeration is not a violation of the law; the deception must have a tangible effect on a transaction and result in an economic gain or loss.
There is also a requisite intent: the defendant must have intended to deceive the victim. It cannot be an accident or unintended consequence, that would not rise to the requisite criminal intent under the law.
Criminal Penalties for Theft by Deception in NJ
Theft by deception charges will be graded based on the amount of the alleged theft. A theft of $75,000 or more is a second degree offense punishable by 5-10 years in prison and the defendant is presumed to be sentenced to prison even if they have no prior criminal record. A theft of $500 – $75,000 is a third degree offense punishable by 3-5 years in prison and there is a presumption of non-incarceration for first time offenders. A theft of $200 – $500 is a fourth degree felony charge punishable by up to 18 months in prison. And finally a theft of less than $200, is a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) punishable by up to six (6) months in the county jail.
PTI in Theft by Deception Cases in New Jersey
If you have no prior criminal record and are facing a theft by deception charge, you may be eligible for the pre-trial intervention (PTI) program. This is a first time offender program which would allow you to avoid jail time and a felony charge on your record if you successfully complete the probationary period. Usually in theft cases, one of the conditions of PTI admission is that you pay the money back to the alleged victim.
If you or a loved one is facing a theft charge in New Jersey including shoplifting, theft of movable property, or theft by deception, the criminal defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm LLC can help. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers have literally handled thousands of theft cases over the years and, in fact, several members of our criminal defense team used to prosecute theft charges for the State of NJ. Now, let them put their experience, knowledge, and expertise to use fighting your theft charges in court. Mr. Tormey was recently recognized as one of the top 10 criminal defense lawyers in the State of NJ by the American Jurist Institute. Contact our offices now for a free initial consultation at 201-556-1570.
Here is a case where Mr. Tormey was successful in having the client’s theft charges dismissed in Essex County, NJ:
“Travis is very responsive and excellent at achieving the best outcome. He is extremely professional and I credit him for negotiating in a manner that greatly reduced my charges.” – Former Client
For more information, contact our theft by deception charge attorneys at 201-556-1570.