Auto Theft Crimes Laws

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 What Are Auto Theft Crimes?

Illegal taking another person’s car is a type of vehicle theft offense. This could comprise different kinds of automobiles, such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, transport vehicles, and other autos.

Auto theft is considered an extremely serious crime that can result in felony or misdemeanor penalties.

Every year, auto theft causes significant losses for industry manufacturers and consumers. Every state has car theft laws aimed at deterring and prosecuting auto theft charge(s). When all of the following conditions are true, auto theft is committed:

  • Unlawfully driving or taking a automobile belonging to another
  • Without the owner’s consent, and
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle

Are There Different Types of Auto Theft Crimes?

There are numerous types of auto theft crimes, each with a unique set of legal penalties and repercussions.

Grand theft auto and carjacking are the two most frequent types of auto theft crimes.

Carjacking is a violent crime that entails seizing someone’s car by force. The owner or driver of the car is typically coerced or threatened into handing it over to the robber. The perpetrator may force the owner to stay in the automobile while seizing control of it, or they may eject them from it. This can be done with or without the use of a weapon.

The goal of carjackers is frequently to deceive the owners of the cars into giving them entry. An offender might, for instance, pretend to have been in an accident, try to bump the victim’s car, flash their lights, or do something else to have the victim stop and help them.

When a car is parked and left unattended, grand theft auto happens. There are several ways to accomplish this, including breaking in and hotwiring the vehicle, gaining entry to an unlocked car while the keys are inside, and other strategies.

Auto theft is a “wobbler” offense, which means that depending on the circumstances, it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

What If a Stolen Car Is Used for a Crime?

The theft may occur with the intent to commit other crimes, a common feature of many auto theft incidents.

A common instance of this is when a car is stolen to disassemble it and sell the individual components on the black market.

Another instance would be using the vehicle to move illegal products across state lines.

It can be challenging for the defendant in a case when a stolen car was used in the commission of the crime. They can be charged with many offenses and struggle to mount an effective defense.

Additionally, repeat offenders may face harsher legal repercussions. The assistance of a knowledgeable attorney can help the defendant during the trial despite the difficulties these situations may present in a criminal case.

What Are the Penalties for an Auto Theft Crime?

The penalties for auto theft vary from state to state, and are a serious offense. In some places, auto theft is a “wobbler,” which means that, depending on the circumstances surrounding the theft and the judge’s disposition of the case, the crime may be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

A minor offense has a maximum jail sentence of one year. A county jail sentence of up to three years may be imposed for a felony.

Theft of an automobile carries severe sanctions as well. The Three Strikes Law in several states applies to the offense of motor theft.

Are Three-Strikes Laws Equivalent to Laws Against Habitual Offenders?

No, they are not the same, even though both feature people who have been found guilty of several offenses. As mentioned above, certain offenses are covered under three strikes statutes. On the other hand, legislation for habitual offenders can be used after the first offense.

These two laws do have comparable objectives. They help the defendant avoid engaging in similar actions in the future. They also aim to guarantee that repeat criminals receive just punishment and serve enough time before being eligible for parole.

Both of these categories of laws are applied differently in each state. The following elements, among others, may affect how these laws are applied:

  • Time between the offenses;
  • The gravity of the crimes;
  • The sequence in which the crimes were committed; and/or
  • The judge’s discretion in imposing a sentence in accordance with local legislation.

As a result of their potential for controversy, three strikes statutes are frequently repealed by state legislatures. Some states, such as Delaware, have been changed to only apply to specific serious felonies or allow up to four strikes.

Many of the initial three strikes statutes demanded heavier mandatory sentences and did not give judges any discretion. Many states have passed legislation to do away with longer mandatory sentences and allow judges to impose the appropriate sentence for the defendant’s particular crime. Other widespread changes include:

  1. Life without parole punishments being abolished;
  2. Removing non-violent offenses from the “strike” list; or
  3. The potential of parole being granted sooner in a sentence.

What Do Federal and State Three Strikes Laws Entail?

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is a federal law enacted in 1994 that provides a three-strikes law definition. A person will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release if they are found guilty of three major felonies or offenses.

As mentioned above, many states have enacted three-strikes legislation for repeat offenders. The three strikes statute differs in a number of these states.

Grand Theft Auto: What Is It?

A felony theft offense is grand theft auto. Vehicle theft is a separate crime in some states, while it is covered under the general felony theft statutes in others. The term “grand theft auto” is not used in most state statutes; instead, it may be used to refer to motor vehicle theft, unlawful taking of a vehicle, or just plain grand theft.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Auto?

Auto theft can no longer be considered a crime if certain requirements aren’t completed. To be charged with auto theft, the defendant must not have had the owner’s permission to steal and use the car and must have planned to permanently rob the owner.

A person cannot be accused of the crime of motor theft if these factors can be refuted.

Consequently, the following are effective defenses:

  • Intent: If the defendant took the car only temporarily and intended to give it back to the owner after use, they may still be held responsible for joyrides because the owner never gave their permission for the defendant to take the car.
  • Consent: The defendant cannot be charged with grand theft auto if the owner of the vehicle gave permission or consented to the taking because the owner permitted the act to take place and the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the owner.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Auto Theft Crime Laws?

State regulations governing auto theft might vary greatly. Things could get tricky if the stolen car is transferred over state borders.

You might choose to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney if you require any legal advice or representation. You can hire an auto theft lawyer to represent you in court and get advice on the law to support your defense.


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