New Jersey has adopted a slew of theft charges, including one that specifically addresses instances where property is wrongfully obtained through deception. The related criminal offense is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 and is termed “Theft by Deception”. It makes it a crime to use false statements and conduct to acquire or attempt to obtain the money or property of another. This charge arises under many different scenarios including bad checks, fraudulent titles, receipt of benefits through deception, forgery, and meter tampering, to name a few. If you are faced with a theft by deception offense, it is in your best interest to take immediate action as a criminal record and other penalties can dramatically effect your future. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, possibly one of our several former prosecutors, is prepared to assist you and initial consultation are free of charge. Learn what your best options are for fighting this offense by calling us at 973-710-1520.
Theft By Deception Lawyers in Belleville New Jersey
N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 sets forth a list of instances under which someone can commit the offense of theft by deception. The precise language is as follows:
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.
The purpose of this law is essentially to protect people from being cheated as a result of false promises and representations. While this is the case, the statute is not intended to capture every misrepresentation or to serve as a means of debt collection for a situation that goes no further than a civil wrong.
As you can see, a fundamental prerequisite to criminal liability under 2C:20-4 is a purpose to deceive. Unintentional or accidental false impressions created by a person’s conduct do not therefore result in a violation. Unless the accused possessed this ill-will, there is no actionable crime. However, when someone possesses this improper state of mind, he/she is subject to prosecution whether or not a reasonable person would have been wise enough to resist their efforts. In other words, it is not a defense under 2C:20-4 that the victim was gullible or stupid.
Are There Instances Where Theft By Deception Does Not Apply?
Yes. A deception which results in no loss is excluded from N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4. The same is true when it comes to correcting another person’s mistake. As long as you did not prevent the victim from discovering the truth or have a fiduciary duty/confidential relationship, you cannot be prosecuted for failing to correct the mistake of another.
Grading & Penalties Upon Conviction For Theft By Deception
Where the offense results in a loss of $75,000 or more, the theft by deception is a second degree crime. The punishment for a second degree crime like this is five (5) to ten (10) years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third degree theft by deception, which results from stealing something with a value of more than $500 but less than $75,000, results in up to five (5) years in prison and a $15,000 fine. When the theft involves at least $200 but less than $500, it is a fourth degree crime that carries a maximum of 18 months in prison and $10,000 fine. Any theft by deception of $200 or less is a disorderly persons offense that can result in up to six (6) months in the county jail.
Theft by Deception Attorneys in Fairfield NJ
Contact our criminal defense firm in Newark NJ if you are in need of representation or require further assistance regarding a theft by deception offense. Our team of criminal defense lawyers have the skill set required to fight to protect your freedom. Our office has extensive experience representing clients charged with theft by deception, shoplifting and receiving stolen property in towns like Livingston, Nutley, Bloomfield, East Orange, South Orange and West Orange.