A Hazlet man was arrested and charged with theft for stealing a wallet out of a woman’s shopping cart at K-Mart. The suspect has been charged with Theft by Unlawful Taking.  Bail has been set at $25,000 and the case will undoubtedly be referred to the Monmouth County Superior Court in view of the bail amount (i.e. appears to be Third Degree bail).

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 of New Jersey Criminal Law, an individual may be indicted for Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition and this can be a Second Degree, Third Degree or Fourth Degree crime. An indictment is properly grounded under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 when an individual unlawfully takes or exercises unlawful control over the property of another. The term “unlawful” refers to the accused’s knowledge that he was not entitled to take, exercise control over or dispose of the property. The accused must also intend to deprive the true owner of the property.

Here there is no question that the defendant comitted a theft by unlawful taking provided the story is accurate. He snatched the wallet and took off with it thereby manifesting an intent to deprive the owner of the property. The only real issue in this case appears to be where the charge will fall in terms of Degree of Crime. The grading of a theft by unlawful taking is predicated on the value of property or money involved: (a) it is a Second Degree Offense if the theft involved a value of $75,000 or more; (b) it is a Third Degree Offense if the value involved is between $500 and $75,000; and (c) it is a Fourth Degree Offense if the value involved is between $200 and $500. The extent of this suspect’s problem will hinge on how much money the woman was carrying in her wallet.  I certainly hope the victim did not have a winning lottery ticket in her wallet.