Auto Theft Laws
September 27, 2018
Stealing a car is a serious offense in any state. In New Jersey, if someone takes, operates, or exercises control over a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner, or another person authorized to give consent, they can be found guilty of auto theft.
There is a broad range of possible auto theft offenses, and each has its own criteria and associated penalties. The extent of the penalties will depend on the circumstances of the crime. If the perpetrator is a minor; used force; intended to keep the vehicle; or intended to temporarily use the vehicle will impact the penalties a car thief may face.
Taking a vehicle temporarily can rise to the level of auto theft. If you borrow a car for longer than the time agreed upon, even if you intend to return the car, then you can be found guilty of joyriding. This is a disorderly person offense, which can be either a third or fourth-degree crime, depending on the circumstances. N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10.
Depriving someone of their property is theft, and auto crimes are a form of theft. See N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1 or 2C:20-2b(b).
Penalties for car theft increase for repeat offenders and include a fine and suspension or postponement of drivers’ license for a period of time.
For first, second, and third offenses, the penalties are, respectively:
- $500 fine and one year’s suspension or postponement of drivers’ license
- $750 and two years suspension or postponement of drivers’ license
- $1,000 and 10 years suspension or postponement of drivers’ license
For vehicles worth more than $7,500, if the vehicle is not recovered, the fines may also include paying the owner what the car was worth.
If an adult used a juvenile under the age of 18 to commit auto theft, then the adult will be committing a more serious crime in the second-degree. Penalties can be thousands of dollars and years in prison.
Someone who leads an auto theft network and conspires with others in a scheme to take, dispose of, distribute, or transport stolen vehicles, is committing a crime in the second-degree. Fines up to five times the retail value of the cars can be imposed, as well as five to 10 years in prison.
Someone who maintains a facility for sale of stolen cars and/or parts is a second-degree crime carrying significant fines, prison time, and license suspension.
This is a crime of violence, since it involves use of force or threat of force, as opposed to theft where a motor vehicle is taken, or an attempt to take the vehicle happens. This is a first-degree crime which can be punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison.
Mistake of fact, consent, and lack of intent are each possible defenses to auto theft. If you have been charged with auto theft, there can be serious consequences. Seek the services of an experienced Haddon Heights criminal defense lawyer to represent you before talking to the police.
There are so many possible charges, as well as potential defenses, to crimes involving auto theft. Failure to act promptly in getting effective representation can dramatically hurt your chances at using potential defenses or negotiating for a lesser charge.
A Haddon Heights Criminal Defense Lawyer at The Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé Defends People Accused of Auto Theft
If you have been charged with auto theft, use your right to remain silent. A Haddon Heights criminal defense lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé has the necessary experience to defend your case. Complete our online form or call 856-546-6600 immediately to schedule a free, confidential initial consultation. This office represents clients throughout the South Jersey area.