NJ Juvenile Theft Charge Defense Lawyer

In its simplest form, theft is the criminal act of stealing. Any time one individual takes money or other valuable property of another without permission or consent, they may be charged with some form of theft. This category of criminal violation covers many specific offenses including shoplifting, burglary, identity theft, robbery, receiving stolen property and theft by unlawful taking.

If your child is facing a juvenile delinquency offense involving theft, our defense attorneys have what you need. As former prosecutors with over 100 years of combined experience defending minors in the Juvenile Park, we know what it takes to thoroughly protect a child against a criminal conviction. Contact us anytime 24/7 for a free consultation with a lawyer on our staff.

What You Need To Know If Your Child Is Facing A Juvenile Theft Charge

When an individual under the age of 18 commits a theft offense, they are deemed to be a juvenile delinquent. Cases involving juvenile delinquency are not handled in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court like they are for adults. Charges are dealt with in the Family Division in a courtroom closed to the public. And while the goal in these proceedings is to rehabilitate and foster accountability, there are serious penalties that can nevertheless be imposed. Your child can be placed on probation, sent to a residential program or even incarcerated.

You should also know that a parent or guardian is required to hire an attorney to represent their son or daughter in juvenile proceedings or secure the services of the public defender because they are indigent. It is therefore best to hire an experienced juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal defense lawyers who specialize in the defense of juveniles like those at Marshal Bonus Proetta & Oliver understand the nuances of the juvenile justice system and are equipped to handle your child’s legal needs. Be an advocate for your child and contact an experienced juvenile defense lawyer as soon as you can after your child’s arrest.

In some cases, a child will be taken into custody and detained. Juvenile detention typically arises where the theft charge is particularly serious, for example, involves a robbery, or where the minor poses a threat to the safety of others or to property.  Confinement takes place at a facility designed exclusively for juvenile offenders. Almost every county has its own facility to house children who are being detained pending resolution of their delinquency complaint. If the resolution of a juvenile theft case includes a period of incarceration, the child is sent to a Juvenile Justice Commission Secure Care Facility to serve his or her term.

All proceedings to resolve the theft charge are sealed. What this means is that all records of an arrest, charge or conviction are inaccessible to employers, colleges, license boards and almost everyone else other than law enforcement.

Another issue that you should know about is waiver. This term refers to the process the case of a juvenile is waived up to adult court. Offenders over the age of 14 who have substantial criminal records may be charged as adults in New Jersey. This is a rare occurrence and may only happen if the prosecutor of a case can demonstrate to the court that charging the juvenile as an adult would be more effective at preventing further criminal activity from him or her and other juveniles by setting an example of what can happen if they engage in criminal activity.

Juvenile Burglary Offense

Burglary is defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 as the entry into a structure without a privilege to do so for the purpose of committing a criminal offense. Burglary is categorized as a theft because the overwhelming reason for unauthorized entry is to steal something. An individual does not have to “break and enter” the building to be considered an act of burglary – merely entering without permission to commit a theft or other violation suffices. An individual may even be deemed to have committed burglary if he or she was previously granted permission to enter a structure or portion of a structure if his or her permission to enter had since expired.

A burglary is usually a third degree crime. A juvenile found guilty faces up to two years of incarceration. If the juvenile committed burglary while armed with a deadly weapon or either inflicted or threatened to inflict bodily harm on a victim during the course of the burglary, he or she may face a second degree charge. The period of juvenile detention is up to three years for second degree burglary. For more information regarding juvenile burglary charges click here.

Juvenile Theft By Unlawful Taking Charge

The catchall offense that applies when a juvenile steals property of another is theft by unlawful taking under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3.  The charge applies where someone unlawfully takes or exercises control over property of another with purpose to deprive the true owner of the item. A taking is unlawful when it is with knowledge that there is no right to take or control the property.

Theft by unlawful taking is a second degree crime where the property stolen has a value of $75,000 or more. It is a third degree crime where the property is worth at least $500 but less than $75,000. Unlawful taking of property is a fourth degree crime when the value is at least $200 but less than $500. It is a disorderly persons offense to steal movable property with a value of less than $200.

Car and Other Motor Vehicle Theft. When a juvenile is found guilty of stealing a motor vehicle, he or she may face additional penalties. The juvenile may have his or her driving privilege suspended for up to one year for his or her first offense, two years for his or her second offense, and if the juvenile is found guilty of automobile theft for a third time, his or her driving privileges may be suspended for up to 10 years. If the juvenile is not yet 17 and thus not yet able to obtain a New Jersey driver’s license, the suspension will not start until his or her 17th birthday. It is also a fourth degree offense for a juvenile to knowingly ride in a stolen vehicle or any vehicle otherwise operated without its owner’s consent. This violation is commonly referred to as joyriding.

Juvenile Robbery

When a juvenile commits a theft through the use or threat of force, it results in a robbery pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. This is the most serious variety of theft offense an individual can face under NJ Law. In most cases, a juvenile will face a second crime for committing or conspiring to commit a robbery. For this, he or she may face up to three years of detention. If, during the course of the theft, the juvenile attempted to use deadly force on a victim, attempted or successfully inflicted bodily harm on a victim, or committed the theft while armed with a deadly weapon, he or she can face a first degree robbery charge. For this offense, a juvenile delinquent can face up to four years in detention. For more information on this subject you can refer to our page on juvenile robbery charges.

Juvenile Shoplifting Offenses

Shoplifting is defined as an act of theft committed against a retailer. Many individuals think of patrons slipping merchandise into their bags and jackets when they think of shoplifting, and although this act does fall under the definition of “shoplifting,” many others do as well. For example, a cashier who knowingly rings up merchandise for a lower price to either help friends or to resell the merchandise for a profit later is committing an act of shoplifting. Altering or removing an item’s price tag without purchasing the item is also an act of shoplifting.

Although shoplifting might not seem like a serious offense, it is a serious offense. The degree of the shoplifting charge a juvenile faces depends on the value of the items he or she is found to have stolen. Juveniles found guilty of shoplifting items valued at up to $200 may face up to six months in detention. This is a disorderly persons offense. Further, being found in possession of a shoplifting aid, such as a device to demagnetize anti-shoplifting tags, is also a disorderly persons offense. If the items are valued at $200 to $500, the juvenile can face a fourth degree charge and up to one year in detention.  For shoplifting items valued at $500 to $75,000, a juvenile can be charged with a third degree offense and face up to two years in detention. If the items are valued at $75,000 or more, the individual may be charged with a second degree offense. He or she can face up to three years in detention.

Work with an Experienced New Jersey Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer

If your child has been charged with any type of theft offense, it is your job as his or her parent to be proactive and start working with an experienced New Jersey juvenile lawyer as soon as possible to develop an effective defense strategy for your child. It does not matter if you think your child’s offense is fairly minor – even a shoplifting charge can impact an individual’s future. Invest in your child’s future liberty and ability to obtain employment and housing for him- or herself by working with a lawyer to try to have the charge dismissed. Contact our team at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today to set up your initial consultation with a member of our firm. Do not assume that just any criminal defense lawyer is equipped to help your child. The criminal justice system for juvenile offenders is quite different from the system in place for adult offenders, so be sure to work with a lawyer who has specific experience working with the juvenile justice system.