Theft by Deception
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
Theft by Deception Charges
The Law Offices of John F. Marshall is a criminal defense law firm that represents individuals charged with Theft by Deception in NJ. If you believe that you are the subject of an investigation or have been arrested for this offense, please contact us immediately. We find that our very best results are obtained when our attorneys are brought into a case early thereby allowing us to mitigate any damage and avoid a potential indictment. Our firm handles these cases statewide including Monmouth County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Mercer County, Essex County and Hudson County. If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance for a Theft by Deception offense, an attorney with our firm is available to answer your questions. We also encourage you to contact our office and arrange a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers. The following information is provided for your assistance in understanding the law.
NJ Theft by Deception Law
New Jersey's Theft by Deception Law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 and provides that:
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.
N.J.S.A. 2C:20-1(a) provides that "obtain" means "(1) in relation to property, to bring about a transfer or purported transfer of a legal interest in the property, whether to the obtainer or another; or (2) in relation to labor or service, to secure performance thereof." N.J.S.A. 2C:20-1(h) defines property as including "anything of value".
Explanation of the Law
In order for a criminal complaint or indictment for Theft by Deception to be valid, the law requires: (1) that property was obtained by the accused; (2) the property was obtained by deception; (3) the accused intended to deceive the victim; and (4) there was some economic gain or loss which resulted. In terms of the second requirement, namely, that "deception" be utilized, there are a number of scenarios in which this may occur, specifically, by creating or reinforcing a false impression regarding the law, the value of something, or an individual's intent or state of mind. In this regard, it is relatively easy to image and comprehend where the statute comes into play when someone misrepresents the law or value of something but it can get a little confusing when we talk about false impression regarding intent or state of mind. A perfect example which illustrates this concept is the solicitation of a charitable donation where the intended purpose of the solicitor is to use the money for something other than a charity. He misrepresents his intent or state of mind, namely, what he intends to use the solicited money for, and this allows him to obtain the money under the guise of a false impression. The solicitor engaged in deceptive conduct to create a false impression that allowed him to obtain money and this gives rise to the offense of Theft by Deception. It should also be reiterated that the statute specifically applies not only to express communication in the form of spoken words and writing, but also to false impression created or reinforced by behavior. For example, when a gas station attendant manipulates a gas pump to his benefit he is creating a false impression as to value without actually speaking or writing something. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a misrepresentation or false impression can only give rise to a charge or indictment if there is an economic or pecuniary gain to the accused. Accordingly, puffing typically will not constitute a criminal offense such as, for example, puffing by a salesman as to the quality of a motor vehicle.
New Jersey's Model Jury Charge for Theft by Deception also provides explanation of the workings of the law and it can be found at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/charges/jury/theft005.htm.
Penalties for Theft by Deception in New Jersey
The penalties which may be applied in the event of conviction are predicated on the grading or degree of the Theft by Deception conviction. In this regard, Second Degree Theft by Deception applies where the amount involved is $75,000 or more. Third Degree Theft by Deception applies where the amount involved is between $500 and $75,000. Fourth Degree Theft by Deception applies where the amount involved is less the $500 but more than $200. Commensurate fines and penalties apply as outlined on our Degree of Offense page.
Aggregation of Damages
Under certain circumstances, the state and prosecutor is permitted to add damage or theft amounts together and utilize the total as the basis for an indictment. This is the case where the thefts were part of a continuing course of conduct or scheme. It is imperative that a knowledgeable defense lawyer fights this effort because the aggregation shall result in a higher Degree of Offense and related penalties.
If you have been charged or indicted for Theft by Deception in NJ, please do not hesitate to contact our law office for a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers. The attorneys at our firm are prepared to fight and defend the offense filed against you in New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Somerset County, Essex County, Hudson County, and Mercer County. Please feel free to contact us.