Auto theft laws are a highly specific body of law that governs the illegal taking of a car. Car theft is typically categorized under the state’s grand theft statutes because of the property’s value; grand theft occurs when the value of the stolen property exceeds that for petty theft. Grand theft auto is a felony in all jurisdictions, and it involves theft of passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles and commercial vehicles. If the driver is forced from the vehicle during the act, it’s referred to as carjacking.
Proving a Car Theft
To convict a defendant of car theft, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:
* That the vehicle was taken without permission from the owner
* That the defendant had no right of ownership to the vehicle
* That the defendant intended to permanently deprive the plaintiff of ownership
Vehicles can be stolen in many ways. In most areas, auto theft laws apply to boats and RVs as well, but in some places, it’s only grand theft if the vehicle is driven on public roadways.
Car Theft’s Legal Consequences
Every jurisdiction has auto theft laws, but they may vary slightly. Most places classify it as either a severe misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor offenses can result in criminal fines and sentences of up to a year in county jail. Felony charges also include fines, but prison sentences are longer. In cases involving violence, consequences are typically more serious.
Legal Defenses to Auto Theft Charges
Auto theft is a difficult charge for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Mount Vernon WA to defend, mostly because of the item’s monetary value and size. Standard defenses such as involuntary intoxication may apply, and a person’s emergency situation may be another valid defense. However, the courts would consider a variety of factors when determining the necessity of the theft.
Does a Defendant Need a Lawyer to Protect Them in an Auto Theft Case?
Auto theft charges are very serious and can lead to severe penalties. If one needs help with related legal issues or isn’t aware of local auto theft laws, they should call a criminal defense lawyer with Domain right away. The Criminal Defense Attorney in Mount Vernon WA can explain a client’s legal rights, and they can determine which defenses may apply. Finally, a lawyer can provide legal guidance throughout the process.