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Understanding the Different Types of Theft

Overview of Theft Charges

When you hear someone talk about theft, you may hear them refer to the crime by other names, such as larceny, robbery, fraud, or embezzlement. It is important to know the differences between the different types of theft under criminal law, especially if you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for a theft-related offense. Specific differences between theft crimes can vary from state to state, so it is important to speak with a local attorney to understand how the laws work in your state.


Larceny, sometimes called simple theft, involves the unlawful taking or use of property that belongs to another person or entity. Larceny itself can come in many different varieties, which usually depend on the property that was stolen, where the property was stolen, and/or the value of the property stolen. For example, larceny from a retail store is often referred to as shoplifting, while the larceny of a brand new vehicle is often referred to as grand theft auto (referring to both the object being stolen and the value [the ‘grand’ portion of the title]). 

The potential sentences for larceny vary widely, often including fines, probation, and time in jail or prison, and are usually dependent on the value of the thing stolen and any circumstances surrounding the theft.

Identity Theft

Identity theft involves the use of another person’s name, bank account, credit card details, or other personally identifying information without that person’s permission. Identity theft can be particularly damaging to a victim who may lose important financial resources and suffer detrimental effects to their credit score. In many cases, identity theft is charged as a federal crime rather than a state crime. Whether charged as a federal or a state crime, identity theft convictions often carry hefty prison sentences, fines, and requirements to forfeit the proceeds of the crime and pay restitution to victims.


Robbery is defined as the use of violence, intimidation, or threats to obtain property. Thus, robbery is typically distinguished from other kinds of theft by the use or threat of violence by the perpetrator. As a result, robbery convictions tend to carry much more severe sentences than traditional larceny convictions. In addition, the prosecutor may also charge a perpetrator with assault and battery or weapons charges depending on the circumstances of the robbery.


Fraud involves the use of deceit or false pretenses to convince a person to willingly give up their property. Thus, fraud is distinguishable from larceny or robbery because the perpetrator does not use violence or simply walk away with the property without the owner’s consent. Like larceny, fraud can have many different varieties depending on the circumstances of the theft. For example, fraud may be characterized as embezzlement if the perpetrator takes property entrusted to them for other purposes. Or fraud may be deemed counterfeiting if the perpetrator makes or uses fake money, checks, or other financial instruments. 

Since many acts of fraud involve business dealings, it is possible for a fraud crime to have numerous victims. As a result, fraud has a wide range of penalties, ranging from simple fines and probation for low dollar amounts and few victims, to sentences of decades in prison for the most wide-ranging and damaging fraud crimes, such as Ponzi schemes.

Contact an Experienced Morristown Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Theft Charges in New Jersey

Were you arrested or charged with theft in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Hanlon Dunn Robertson Schwartz have successfully represented clients charged with theft in Parsippany, Mount Olive, Rockaway, Roxbury, and throughout New Jersey. Call (973) 267-8895 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 33 Market St., Morristown, NJ 07960, as well as offices located in New Brunswick.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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