As more people shop online and order deliveries to their home, thieves have more packages to steal. If you've ever been accused of stealing a box or bag off someone's porch, you may consider this offense benign compared with breaking into their house. Yet, New Jersey takes the misdeeds of so-called “porch pirates” seriously, which may make you think twice before swiping a box off someone's front steps.
Understanding New Jersey's laws
In 2019, New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill that proposed stiffer penalties for package thieves. Until its introduction, many porch thefts qualified as disorderly persons offenses. The original bill proposed that thieves who stole packages valued under $200 would face fourth-degree charges, and those who stole parcels worth over $200 would receive third-degree charges. It also put forth that repeat offenders would face third-degree charges as well. An amended version gave a break to first-time offenders, who would have still received a disorderly persons offense. The amended bill ultimately went unsigned in a pocket veto.
Despite the bill's veto, law enforcement officials have started pursuing harsher penalties for package thieves. If you're accused of stealing packages, you may receive theft charges. And you could receive burglary charges if you broke into a secured apartment or building lobby to take parcels.
What the penalties mean
If you receive a burglary conviction, know that it is a third-degree offense in New Jersey. In this case, you could face a fine of up to $15,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years. Thefts over $500 also count as third-degree crimes, and those between $200 and $500 as fourth-degree crimes. Thefts below $200 constitute a disorderly persons offense, which could still lead to a six-month prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.
Package theft laws are becoming tougher. If you're accused of stealing off other people's porches, the penalties you could face are more severe than before. A criminal defense attorney can help you work through your charges.