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Vehicle Theft Crimes

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What Are Vehicle Theft Crimes?

Vehicle theft crimes involve the stealing of another person’s automobile. A vehicle may include vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, as well as others. Motor vehicle theft is usually referred to as "grand theft auto," especially where the vehicle is parked and unoccupied. Vehicle theft can sometimes be classified as a car jacking if the defendant uses force or the threat of force to remove a person from the vehicle in order to steal it.

A vehicle theft crime may also involve other types of auto crimes, such as the stealing of the parts, or "stripping" a car of its parts or attachments. However, these types of crimes may be classified in their own class, which may be separate from the theft of the car itself.

What Are Some Examples of Vehicle Theft Crimes?

Vehicle theft crimes can be accomplished through a number of different means. Depending on state laws, these may be prosecuted differently and may lead to different sentencing consequences. Vehicle theft crimes may involve:

  • Theft of a parked, unattended vehicle without the use of keys
  • Theft of an unattended vehicle with the use of keys whether forged or stolen key
  • "Opportunistic" theft, where the defendant steals a car that has been left unattended with the engine running or idling
  • Carjacking: Where the driver is removed from the car, either by force or threat of force
  • "Fraudulent" vehicle theft: Theft that occurs through fraud or trickery .

What Are the Legal Consequences of Vehicle Theft?

Vehicle theft is usually either a misdemeanor or a serious felony. The punishment usually involves criminal fines and incarceration. The length of the sentence usually depends on the seriousness of the crime. The severity of the punishment may depend on factors such as:

  • The value of the car. Generally, theft of a more expensive car will result in higher penalties
  • The reason that the car was stolen
  • Whether the car was stolen using a weapon or not
  • Whether anyone was injured

Defenses against vehicle theft crimes may vary according to the specific facts of each case. Also, penalties for vehicle theft crimes may increase with repeat charges for the same crime.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Vehicle Theft Charges?

Vehicle theft convictions can lead to other serious consequences, such as loss of your driver’s license or difficulty in obtaining employment in the future. If you or a loved one of yours is facing vehicle theft charges, you may wish to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A qualified attorney in your area can assist you with your case, and can help inform you of your options under current vehicle theft laws in your state.

Photo of page author Gabrielle Hollingsworth

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-19-2016 10:27 AM PDT

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