Although the terms “theft” and “robbery” are often used interchangeably, the law sees them very differently. If you find yourself facing charges in New Jersey, the distinction plays a vital role in how the court views the crime and the penalties associated with it.
Theft occurs when a person takes another’s property unlawfully. According to the New Jersey Legislature, robbery occurs when force, bodily harm or the threat of bodily harm accompanies the theft.
New Jersey law identifies several types of theft offenses. The penalty typically depends on the value of the property involved in the theft. For example, a disorderly persons offense is often referred to as petty theft, as the property value is less than $200. A theft crime of the fourth degree means the property is worth at least $200 but less than $500. It may include imprisonment up to a year and a half as well as a fine up to $10,000. Fines and imprisonment terms increase as degree severity increases.
Theft with the threat or use of violence becomes robbery. Charges often refer to it as armed robbery. Crimes involving a motorized vehicle may become grand theft auto charges. If convicted, you may receive a prison term of more than ten years and have fines upwards of $100,000 levied against you.
The burden of proof lies with the prosecution. If your involvement is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the government likely cannot get a conviction. There are also defenses effective against robbery charges, including duress, intoxication and entrapment. Depending on the circumstances, the court may reduce charges from robbery to theft.