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Auto Theft

ARS 13-1814: Car Theft in Arizona

Motor vehicles are one of the largest investments of someone’s life, and therefore Arizona law strictly punishes the auto theft. Arizona ranks 14th among all U.S. states for amount of vehicles  stolen per year and 21st in rate of motor vehicle theft per 100,000 residents. Arizona has a specific motor vehicle theft statute, A.R.S. § 13-1814, “theft of means of transportation.”

ARS §13-1814 “Theft of Means of Transportation” or “Auto Theft” occurs when a person without lawful authority, knowingly:

  1. Controls somebody else’s vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that car or vehicle. This is what we normally see charged. 
  2. If a person “converts” for an unauthorized term or use another person’s car/vehicle that is entrusted to the defendant or in their possession for limited use. This type of situation comes up when a person borrows somebody else’s car for a certain amount of time, but then fails to return it within the agreed upon time period.
  3. Obtaining another person’s means of transport through material misrepresentation with intent to permanently deprive the person of the car/vehicle. So, when somebody gives a material misrepresentation (a lie) in order to get permission to use somebody’s vehicle.
  4. If somebody else’s car/boat/vehicle is lost or mis-delivered to a person and that person does not use any reasonable efforts to notify the true owner.
  5. If you control someone else’ vehicle knowing or having reason to know it was stolen. This comes up sometimes when people purchase a car off the street for an extremely cheap price. 

Punishments for ARS 13-1814 – Car Theft

Theft of Means of Transportation is a class three felony and the sentencing ranges depend on whether the person has prior convictions, or if there are numerous offenses charged at the same time with different dates of offense. 

A first offense Class 3 Felony carries a range of punishment of probation with up to one (1) year in jail at the discretion of the judge, or prison of 2 to 8.75 years of prison. If the person has one allegeable historical prior conviction, then the person is prison mandatory and punishment ranges from 3.5 to 16.25 years of incarceration. If the person has two allegeable historical prior convictions, then the prison mandatory range is from 6.7to twenty-five (25) years.

Example of an Arizona Motor Vehicle Theft Case

In the case State v. Carter, decided by the Arizona Supreme Court, Mr. Carter was charged under A.R.S. § 13-1814 with motor vehicle theft for stealing an SUV and a tractor. Means of transportation does not discriminate, both an SUV and a tractor are both equally defined as a “means of transportation.” Mr. Carter carjacked both the SUV and the tractor, making his case very easy to spot as a theft of motor vehicle, and he received two charges of motor vehicle and two counts of lesser theft. Mr. Carter was convicted by the trial court on all counts and his sentence was set at 30.75 years in prison.

However, the Arizona Supreme Court held that Mr. Carter could not be charged for both lesser theft and auto theft twice, as it violated his Constitutional right known as the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Double Jeopardy Clause prevents any person being held responsible for the same crime twice. In this case, charging Mr. Carter with theft in two different ways for stealing the same item was a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. Therefore, his lesser theft convictions were dropped, but his two motor vehicle theft convictions were upheld as they were more pointed to what occurred.

How to fight these charges – Criminal Defense Lawyer – Phoenix, Arizona

Consent) Many of these cases are not the typical gone in 60 seconds car jackings. These are situations in which someone gave a vehicle to someone else. Often this can be a boyfriend/girlfriend lending their partner a car. A fight breaks out, consent is taken away without the knowledge of the person accused and charge is filed out of spite. 

Your attorney needs to track down and interview every witness who can discuss the relationship between you and the owner of the vehicle and see whether anyone was present when permission to use it was granted. 

Knowledge) If the person was given the vehicle, did they believe the car was given to them legally? What if they purchased it? Did they believe they were getting a lower price based on the condition of the vehicle or the financial situation of the owner? Sometimes stolen cars are sold to people without them ever knowing they were stolen, then the purchaser ends up as the one charged with the crime. 

5th Amendment Rights) We see 5th amendment rights being violated too often. If you were not read your Miranda rights then those statements cannot be used against you. Your attorney can challenge this evidence and have the statements suppressed. 

If you have been accused of auto theft or charged with Theft of Means of Transportation then you need experienced criminal defense. Jack Litwak has represented clients throughout the Phoenix area and throughout all of Arizona. Call us today to set up a consultation or click the contact button on this page.