In New Jersey, the crimes of theft and robbery can carry potentially carry serious penalties.  Convictions can carry prison sentences and expensive fines.  Even seemingly minor allegations, such as misdemeanor shoplifting, still have the power to create a criminal record that can interfere with your personal and professional life many years into the future.

You’re up against a challenge, but you don’t have to face it alone. Criminal defense lawyer Joseph Lombardo is committed to providing aggressive client advocacy, and has over 20 years of experience defending the people of New Jersey against a wide variety of theft-related charges. Type of matters that Mr. Lombardo frequently handles include (but not limited to):

  • Carjacking (Auto Theft)
  • Extortion
  • Identity Theft
  • Property Theft
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Robbery
  • Shoplifting (Retail Theft)
  • Theft of Services

To arrange for a free and private legal consultation, call Lombardo Law at (800) 930-3241 today.

attorney helping client

What’s the Difference Between Robbery and Theft Charges?

In everyday conversation, theft and robbery sometimes carry the same meaning.  But in a legal context, they are distinct, separate charges that are defined and penalized differently.

Theft is the broader of the two crimes, and involves any “unlawful taking” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3.  Many people think theft refers taking a physical object, but the legal definition is actually much broader.  You can also be criminally charged if you steal or attempt to steal intangible items, such as a service (e.g. cable, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8) or even another person’s identity or identifying information (e.g. a driver’s license, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17.2).  New Jersey’s theft statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, clearly divides theft into taking both “movable property” and “immovable property.”

Even shoplifting (i.e. retail theft) has a much wider definition than many people initially realize, because it is not necessarily restricted to stealing goods from a merchandiser.  You can also be charged with shoplifting if you alter an object’s price tag or other markings, or even if you remove a shopping cart from the retailer’s premises (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11).

By contrast, robbery involves theft plus an element of injury, force, or the use or threatened use of a weapon, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1.  Robbery may also be charged if you allegedly committed or threatened to commit an additional first or second degree crime.

Criminal In Handcuffs

What Are the Penalties for a Theft Conviction in New Jersey?

Instead of using the usual terms of “misdemeanor” and “felony,” New Jersey uses the different but equivalent terms of “disorderly persons offense” (or “DP offense”) and “indictable crime,” respectively.  Unfortunately, many charges related to stealing and burglary do have the potential to be graded as indictable crimes — and even a DP offense or petty DP offense could have serious negative consequences for your daily life, including jail time and costly restitution fines.

Robbery is typically charged as a second degree crime.  However, it may be classified as a first degree crime in cases where the defendant allegedly:

  • Attempted to commit murder.
  • Used or threatened to use a deadly weapon.
  • Inflicted or attempted to inflict “serious bodily injury.”  A serious bodily injury means any injury which creates a serious risk of death, results in permanent disfigurement, or long-term damage to a limb, organ, or basic physical function (e.g. breathing, walking, grasping objects).

By contrast, many theft classifications are based largely on the value of the item or service which was stolen. Generally speaking, theft charges are graded as follows:

  • Value under $200 — DP Offense
  • Value of $200 to $500 — 4th Degree Crime
  • Value greater than $500, less than $75,000 — 3rd Degree Crime
  • Value of $75,000 or higher — 2nd Degree Crime

However, it isn’t always dollar value alone that determines how a charge is categorized.  For example, regardless of monetary value, you can sill be charged in the second degree if an alleged theft involves extortion, human remains, government benefits, or more than one kilogram of illegal drugs.  Possible penalties for a conviction could include:

  • DP Offense — Fine of up to $1,000, sentence of up to six months.
  • 4th Degree Crime — Fine of up to $10,000, sentence of up to 18 months.
  • 3rd Degree Crime — Fine of up to $15,000, sentence of up to five years.
  • 2nd Degree Crime — Fine of up to $150,000, sentence of up to 10 years.

However, in some cases those fines could be even larger.  If you are convicted, you could be ordered to pay either the standard restitution or double the loss to the victim — whichever is the higher amount.

If you or someone you love is facing these charges, it is critically important to have experienced legal representation on your side.  To start discussing your options in a confidential case evaluation completely free of charge, call New Jersey theft lawyer Joseph Lombardo at (800) 930-3241 today.