What is Theft by Deception?
In New Jersey, the crime of Theft is codified under Chapter 20 of Title 2C. There are many manners or means by which a theft offense can be charged. One of the more common theft offenses that seem to be cropping up these days is the crime of Theft by Deception. The statute 2C:20-4 reads, in part, as follows:
“A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains property of another by deception. A person deceives if he purposely:
a. Creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind, and including, but not limited to, a false impression that the person is soliciting or collecting funds for a chartable purpose; but deception as to a person’s intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;
b. Prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction; or
c. Fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.”
What are the criminal penalties?
The criminal penalties for theft depend on how the crime is graded, which in turn depends on the amount of loss involved. If the amount involves $75,000 or more, it is a second-degree crime. Of the amount is between $500 to $75,000, it is a third degree crime. If the amount is $200 to $500, the crime constitutes a fourth-degree crime.
What are the immigration penalties?
There may be very drastic immigration consequences that flow from a conviction of theft by deception in New Jersey. A conviction or guilty plea under this statute may potentially bar an alien from permanent residence as well as trigger deportability. This particular type of crime could arguably be classified as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (“CIMT”). While there is no general definition for what constitutes a CIMT, a crime which “shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man…” would be considered as one. Such conduct has generally been found by the courts to involve knowing or purposeful behavior. Without going into the merits of whether such a crime actually is a CIMT, Theft by Deception could certainly catch the attention of the government, which would in all likelihood argue that it is. Because the case law defining the crime seem to require some degree of affirmative misrepresentation, an alien convicted of this offense is exposed to possible action by the Department of Homeland Security. Should the alien convicted of this offense also receive a jail sentence of one year or more, there is also a danger of the crime being classified as an Aggravated Felony. A conviction of this crime may also impact or influence a finding of whether the individual has demonstrated good moral character. For example, if an alien convicted of this offense applies for naturalization, and this offense falls within statutory period being considered, the application may be denied on the basis that the applicant has not shown good moral character by having committed this crime.
Given the potential immigration consequences, it is imperative for any foreign born individual who is not a US Citizen consult with an experienced “immigration attorney”-in other words, an immigration attorney who is familiar with New Jersey criminal law and experienced in evaluating the immigration consequences.
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