A former New Jersey state employee who stole more than $18,000 in public money will escape a jail term if she successfully completes probation.

Sharon Caldwell received four years probation and a 364-day county jail term when she was sentenced Wednesday. She also must serve 40 hours of community service and make full restitution.

The judge conditionally suspended the jail term, meaning the 58-year-old Trenton resident will remain free if she completes probation.

A fiscal analyst for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Caldwell was responsible for disbursing checks from an account maintained by the state's disability insurance program. She pleaded guilty to theft by deception, admitting that she issued three checks -- totaling about $18,525 -- and cashing them.

She then used the money to pay her rent.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)