Stolen car laws, in general, govern violations that involve auto theft and other types of serious auto crimes. In the majority of cases, the term stolen car refers to instances where an individual leaves their car parked and returns to find that it was stolen and is gone.
This type of crime is different from other car crimes, such as car jacking, that may involve the use or threat of violence to remove the driver and passengers from a car. Car theft is a serious crime that may result in various penalties and legal consequences.
The majority of stolen car criminal charges result in serious misdemeanor or felony charges. These may result in criminal fines and incarceration.
Consequences may also involve civil liability for the losses caused to the owner of the car. There are a number of different crimes that involve an individual stealing a vehicle that does not belong to them.
The laws that govern vehicle theft may vary by state. In many states, stealing a car is classified as grand theft auto under the law.
In terms of what law the perpetrator violated, it does not matter whether or not the vehicle is occupied. In addition, there are crimes that involve vehicle theft in addition to other related crimes.
For example, taking parts from a vehicle to resell them. Stolen car laws are criminal laws that are typically cataloged in the motor vehicle crime statutes of a state.
The majority of states prohibit the theft of most common vehicles, including but not limited to:
- Mopeds; and
- Larger commercial vehicles, such as buses or semi trucks.
Common examples of vehicle theft include:
- A vehicle being taken while it is parked, unoccupied, and the owner is not nearby;
- An unattended vehicle may be stolen by using the thief’s forged or copied keys;
- Stealing a vehicle that has been left running with the keys inside;
- Carjacking; and
- Theft by fraud.
Stolen car lawyers can help individuals who are accused of stealing a car. Because the defendant may face serious legal consequences, it is important to have representation.
What if I Wish to Report a Stolen Car?
Stolen car laws allow individuals to make a report if they believe that their vehicle has been stolen. Typically, filing a stolen car report will initiate a police search for the stolen vehicle.
Law enforcement may then begin an active search or they may begin keeping a lookout for cars of the same make, model, and description. Therefore, it is important that the owner of a vehicle provide the information that is necessary to help authorities locate their stolen vehicle.
In addition, if the car owner has any leads on a possible suspect, it may assist authorities in locating the vehicle. It is important to keep in mind that filing a false police report is a crime in and of itself and may lead to serious issues with the law.
If an individual is involved in a stolen vehicle case or has been charged with stealing a vehicle, they should consult with a stolen vehicle lawyer. If an individual is unsure how to file a report, their lawyer can assist them.
What Happens if You Get Caught Driving a Stolen Car?
Under receiving stolen property laws, it is a criminal offense to accept or to purchase any property that an individual believes or has actual knowledge that it was obtained through an illegal means, such as theft.
Receiving stolen property is a separate crime and should not be confused with similar criminal acts, such as:
Depending upon the jurisdiction and the facts that are involved in a specific case, receiving stolen property may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The rationale behind these laws is to deter individuals from rewarding and assisting thieves by purchasing or hiding stolen property, as well as to prevent occurrences of theft or larceny overall.
If an individual has been accused of driving a stolen car or receiving stolen property, they should consult with a car theft attorney. Their attorney can advise them regarding the possible charges they may face in their state.
Is Being a Passenger in a Stolen Car a Crime?
Typically, a passenger in a stolen car will not be charged with a crime unless they knew or should have known that the vehicle was stolen or was used without the owner’s permission. For example, an individual who was hitchhiking and was picked up in a stolen car would likely not be charged if there was no evidence that the hitchhiker had a reason to believe the car was stolen.
In contrast, however, if an individual was picked up in a stolen car by their friend and they were aware that the driver did not own a car, the passenger may be charged with a crime. These cases may vary greatly based on the facts, so it is important to consult with an auto theft lawyer who can provide advice regarding possible charges an individual may face.
What Other Legal Issues are Involved with Stolen Cars?
Other legal issues that arise related to stolen car violations is that, in many cases, a stolen car is used to perpetrate another criminal offense. For example, a stolen car is often used as a getaway car to assist with a robbery.
Stolen cars are also commonly used to transport drugs or other illegal contraband. They typically have a fake or swapped license plate.
In addition to these offenses, stolen cars are also often used in kidnappings. Amber alert technology uses electronic billboards to post information about kidnappings that occur in the area.
Members of the public are alternated to the type of vehicle that may have been used in the kidnapping. The public can then assist law enforcement in spotting possible stolen cars on highways and on side streets.
How Long Can You Go to Jail for Stolen Car?
As noted above, grand theft auto is how many states refer to the crime of stealing a vehicle. Stealing another individual’s vehicle for joyriding would typically not be considered grand theft auto because the perpetrator did not intend to permanently take the vehicle.
Stealing a car to sell any portion of it, however, would likely be considered grand theft auto because it permanently deprives the vehicle’s original owner of their vehicle. In order for an individual to be convicted or grand theft auto, the prosecution must show:
- The defendant took or drove the vehicle;
- The motor vehicle was not the defendant’s lawful property;
- The lawful owner of the vehicle did not give the defendant permission nor consent to take or drive the vehicle; and
- The defendant acted with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car of their vehicle.
Examples of legal penalties that may be associated with being convicted of grand theft auto may include:
- A jail or prison sentence, depending on whether the crime is considered to be a misdemeanor or a felony;
- Community service;
- Criminal fines, the amount varying according to whether the crime is ruled a misdemeanor or a felony;
- Loss or suspension of driver’s license;
- Probation of over one year; or
- Restitution, or compensation paid to the victim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Stolen Car Violations?
Laws governing stolen cars often result in severe legal consequences. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns regarding auto theft laws, it is important to consult with a criminal lawyer.
A lawyer for stolen car issues can advise you regarding the various laws and statues that are involved in stolen car violations in your state. If you have been charged with stealing a car, your attorney can represent you in court and ensure your rights are protected.