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New Jersey laws address theft in its various forms, from shoplifting and cargo to theft of services. Theft of services requires intent, but the crime may not require that you use the services to obtain a guilty verdict.

According to the New Jersey Legislature, theft of services may occur when a person purposely obtains services by deception, threat or fraudulent statements. Theft may also happen if a person has control over services to which he is not entitled and diverts those services for his benefit.

Services covered by state statutes

For a theft of services crime, the services must be among those which typically require payment as compensation. This can include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Cable TV
  • Transportation
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Restaurants
  • Admission to movies or exhibits
  • Use of motorized vehicles and movable property

State statutes also specifically address theft of services pertaining to utilities, such as water, gas and electricity. Provisions make tampering with or disconnecting a meter, pipe, conduit or wire, illegal. The conduct itself is unlawful. There is no requirement that you obtain services as a result of these actions.

Charges and penalties for theft of services

The penalties for most theft crimes relate directly to the value of the property involved. A disorderly persons offense has the least severe punishment. It involves the theft of less than $200 in property or if the stolen property is an electronic vehicle identification system transponder. Penalties may include up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Crimes of the Fourth degree include property theft between $200 and $500 and may include a prison term of up to 18 months.

Fines and jail time increase as the value of the stolen property increases. Depending on the circumstances, charges involving cable, telecommunications and utility services could include fines up to $150,000 and five to ten years in jail. A thorough understanding of theft laws can determine the best way to minimize charges or overturn your conviction.