Theft of movable property (also known as “theft by unlawful taking”) is a criminal offense in New Jersey governed by N.J.S. 2C:20-3(a) which provides in pertinent part:
Movable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.
Theft of movable property under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a) occurs when an individual “unlawfully takes” or “exercises unlawful control” over the property of another. The accused must have knowingly taken or unlawfully exercised control over or dispose of the property of another. In addition, the accused purpose at the time of the taking must have been to “deprive” the true owner of the property. “Deprive”, according to the law, includes both permanent takings and temporary situations. The accused need not actually take or move property for the offense to occur since all that is needed is “control” over the property; for example, when the ignition is started in the case of a car theft, this is sufficient control to satisfy the theft statute. The key is that “control” must actually be exercised in order for an offense to be committed.
The grading of the offense is determined by the value of property or money involved in the crime: (a) it is a second degree offense if the theft involved a value of $75,000 or more; (b) it is a third degree offense if the value involved is between $500 and $75,000; and (c) it is a fourth degree offense if the value involved is between $200 and $500.
The sentencing for a crime is determined by the degree of the offense committed: (a) if it is a second degree offense then you will be facing a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison; (b) if it is a third degree offense then you will be facing a sentence of up to 5 years in prison; and (3) if it is a fourth degree offense then you will be facing a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
In New Jersey, the law permits aggregation of multiple values of theft involved in certain instances. This means that the prosecutor is permitted to add together theft amounts and use the total as the basis for the charge. The result is that the accused can be subject to, for example, a second degree offense where individual thefts were limited to items well below the $75,000 threshold for a second degree Theft by Unlawful Taking charge. However, aggregation of amounts is only permitted were there is a continuing course of conduct. In other words, there is a common thread running through each of the individual thefts which render them part of a single scheme.