Just as it sounds, a master car key can open the doors and start the ignition on multiple vehicles. This type of key is reserved for automobile professionals and locksmiths, but there is also a criminal element. Car thieves are well-known for possessing master car keys and use them in the commission of stealing cars.

Not only are they able to illegally obtain this type of key, but they are also able to make them. By filing down standard keys just enough so that they are able to wiggle them into the ignition, it tricks the locking system and the thief makes off with the car.

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Can Someone Face Criminal Liability with a Master Car Key?

Anyone who is in illegal possession of a master car key may face criminal liability. For instance, in California, master car keys are classified under the umbrella of burglary tools and those who are found guilty of the possession of these tools will face fines and up to six months in jail.

It is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or unlawfully possess a master car key. Other crimes such as grand theft auto and carjacking are often connected with the possession of a master car key, and penalties for those crimes can be severe.

As more cars are being produced with a push-button start ignition, thieves have begun using technology in the form of key fobs as a point of entry, bypassing theft-prevention countermeasures.

What Punishments May Someone Face for Committing a Crime with a Master Car Key?

If a person is accused of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing a master car key, they will typically be charged with a misdemeanor. Penalties for these offenses may include:

  • Fines;
  • Jail time;
  • Community service;
  • Loss of driver’s license; and/or
  • Probation.

Any other offenses that were committed in connection to the master car key may bring stiffer penalties.

Can Someone Lawfully Own a Master Car Key?

Legitimate master car keys exist for purposes other than stealing cars. Most states have laws that exclude certain people, businesses, and government departments and agencies from criminal liability for the purposes of manufacturing, distribution, or possession of a master car key, such as:

  • Car dealerships;
  • Car fleet owners;
  • Commercial and professional locksmiths;
  • Rental car agencies;
  • Car manufacturers;
  • Automobile clubs; and
  • Government agencies.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are facing charges in relation to a master car key, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Master car key offenses are often connected with other criminal charges; an experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, put forth a sound defense, and represent your best interests in court.