About Motor Vehicular Theft Charges, Laws, & Convictions
Motor vehicular theft is defined as the act of stealing or trying to steal a vehicle, including a car, truck, bus or motorcycle. It also is referred to as grand theft auto by many US police departments. In 2005, there were over one million thefts of motor vehicles.
There were 416 vehicles stolen for every 100k people in the United States in 2005. This compares to 294 per 100k people in Massachusetts in 2005. This number has since dropped (see statistics below).
About Motor Vehicular Theft Laws in Massachusetts
The penalties for motor vehicular theft can be very serious here. The state will try to prove the theft in two ways:
- Prove that you stole the vehicle with reason to know that it is a stolen car
- Prove that you are guilty if you took the car without permission from the owner and took parts or accessories from it.
The second case catches a lot of people into the net of vehicular theft, because they may have just stole the car and used it for parts. This still is vehicular theft under Massachusetts law.
The district attorney on your case in Massachusetts might have weak evidence that you intended to permanently take the vehicle from the lawful owner. In this case, your Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer may try to have your charges reduced to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in Massachusetts
If you do have a good attorney, you would much rather deal with a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in a Massachusetts court than one of vehicular theft. You could have your case reduced to this charge if your attorney can convince the court that you took the car as part of a misunderstanding.
For example, you may have borrowed your friend’s car and been pulled over and found to not have a driver’s license. Then, your friend wants to avoid charges of allowing someone without a license to drive his car. So, he tells the police that you did not have permission to drive it.
In this case, you would face the following criminal charges:
- $500 fine and up to 2 years in jail for the first offense
- 1 year loss of your license and up to 3 years
- $1000 fine and five years in prison, if this is your second or third offense (felony)
Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to get these charges dismissed. The prosecution has to prove that you used the car without permission from the owner. If your attorney can show it was a misunderstanding, you could be found not guilty. The prosecution also must prove that you really drove the car. You can’t be convicted if you were just sitting in the car.
Massachusetts Penalties for Vehicular Theft
If you are convicted of vehicular theft, you can face:
- As much as 15 years in prison, or at least 2.5 years in jail
- Fine of up to $15,000
In Massachusetts, you also could have a disposition that is called Continued Without a Finding. This is not pleading straight guilty, and it is critical when you are trying to avoid a trial. Keep in mind that you have this finding in a case on your second offense, you will get at least one year in jail. Also, you will get up to 10 years in prison if you conceal or hide a thief of a motor vehicle.
Motor Vehicular Theft Statistics in Massachusetts
In comparison to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, this is how Massachusetts rated in auto theft in recent years. A #1 ranking would be the highest crime rate, and #51 would be the lowest.
- 2008: 36
- 2007: 37
- 2006: 34
- 2005: 31
There has been a marked drop in auto thefts in the state in the decade 2000-10. There were 25,876 thefts reported in 2000, and 11,453 in 2010.
If you have been accused of vehicular theft, or any other serious crime, contact the Law Offices of Geoffrey G. Nathan. He has the experience and legal skills needed to handle serious criminal matters. To arrange an office consultation, contact us now.