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Theft by Deception – NJSA 2C:20-4

Defense Attorney For Theft by Deception Charges

I have successfully prosecuted and defended many cases involving theft by deception charges. Many people have heard the term “theft by deception.”. Yet, not many actually understand what it is. What makes this crime, so complex is that it is not limited to one type of incident or situation. Instead, it can include everything from stealing someone’s social security number to even impersonating a charity so that people can pay you money. 

Regardless of how it happens, the bottom line is theft by deception is a serious crime with significant consequences. It can include hefty fines and jail time. If convicted of this offense, it can forever change your life. If you have been charged with theft by deception, you need an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney that is ready to answer your questions, help you understand the charges, and fight for your individual rights. 

Elements of Theft by Deception

In New Jersey, theft by deception is a crime governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4. And even though this type of theft can vary greatly depending on the case, the elements to prove this type of theft remain the same. They include the following:

  • The defendant obtained the property.
  • The property was obtained through deception.
  • The defendant had the intent to deceive the victim purposely.
  • There was a monetary gain that was involved.

What is Required for the State to Prove these Charges

For the state to prove the specific charges of theft by deception, they have to confirm that the defendant committed the four elements listed above. However, what gets a little confusing is how does the prosecution prove the intent to deceive? To clarify this point, the statute includes specific scenarios that highlight where deception exists:

  • When the defendant reinforces or creates a false impression, which includes deception of value or the law. (i.e., collecting funds for a charity)
  • When the defendant prevents another individual from obtaining information that would affect their own judgment concerning a specific transaction. 
  • When the defendant does not fix a false impression which they had previously reinforced or created, or which the defendant knows is influencing another individual to whom he has a confidential or fiduciary relationship.

As you can see, the intent to deceive someone is the critical component. And even though the intent element is not easy to prove, the prosecutor will often use physical evidence such as emails, voicemails, or text messages between you and the victim to show how the intent applies. That is why it is important always to discuss everything with your lawyer upfront to ensure that the prosecution does reveal any evidence that can hinder your defense. 

Penalties for Theft by Deception 

As is the case with other crimes of theft, the punishment that a defendant will face if they are convicted of theft by deception is dependent on the value of the property that was allegedly stolen. These penalties include: 

Second Degree Offense

If the amount stolen totaled over $75,000, the person could be charged with a second-degree crime. This charge includes five to ten years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

Third Degree Offense

If the amount stolen totaled between $500 and $75,000, the person could be charged with a third-degree offense. This charge includes prison time of three to five years and up to $15,000 in fines. 

Fourth Degree Offense

If the amount stolen totaled between $200 and $500, the individual could be charged with a fourth-degree offense. The charge carries maximum jail time of 18 months and a fine of $10,000.

Disorderly Person Offense (Misdemeanor)

If the amount stolen totaled less than $200, the individual can be charged with a disorderly person offense and can face six months of jail time and fines up to $1,000. 

One crucial aspect to understand is that the prosecutor will usually add up all the theft amounts together, in some cases thefts that happened over a period of time, to increase the total value of the stolen property. Ultimately, this can result in stiff charges being imposed against you.

Potential Defenses 

Theft by deception is a serious crime that carries with it major consequences. However, because you have been charged with theft by deception, it does not mean you have to be convicted of this crime. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight these charges and limit the impact against you. 

  • Lack of Intent: The prosecutor has the burden of proving that you committed theft by deception, a specific intent crime. By showing that you did not intend to deceive or deprive the owner of their property, your attorney will attest the prosecution did not prove the element of intent. Therefore, you cannot be convicted of this theft.
  • Business Transaction: Another defense against these charges is if you legitimately purchased the property. If there was a business transaction done between you and the victim, then this will also show that you are not guilty of theft. 
  • Value of Item: As explained above, the value of the stolen item can impact the severity of the punishment. Therefore, proving the property had little or no value can help reduce the charges against you. 
  • Probationary Sentence: There is no presumption of incarceration under the third and fourth-degree crime. What does this mean for you?  If you have no previous criminal history, and you are convicted of theft by deception, your lawyer will argue that you should get a probationary sentence instead of jail time. 
  • Pre- Trial Intervention (PTI): If you had no prior convictions, your attorney can argue that you are eligible for a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program. This diversionary program allows a defendant’s case to be put on hold for a short period. During this time, the defendant can finish the PTI program, which can ultimately dismiss the charges against them. 

Why You Need a Skilled New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney?

Theft by deception is a complicated crime with grave consequences. If you are convicted, not only will it impact your daily life, but it can also hurt your livelihood and your relationships. However, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you combat these charges by coming up with defenses that are not only effective but ones that can challenge the state’s case against you. 

Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC

If you or a family member has been charged with theft by deception, do not wait any longer. Contact the Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio today and let a skilled criminal defense attorney help you navigate this complicated legal process and fight for a fair outcome. 

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    “Mr. Vecchio was very thorough and efficient. His team was accommodating and the ultimate outcome was better than expected. Mr. Vecchio kept me up to date with every detail via emails and text messages. An all around good guy and family man.”
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