Watch this short video where David explains Theft of Means of Transportation / Auto Theft:
Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-1814 “Theft of Means of Transportation” or “Auto Theft” occurs when a person controls somebody else’s vehicle with the intent to “permanently” deprive the person of that vehicle. This can occur 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.
These charges can also occur when somebody gives a material misrepresentation in order to get permission to use somebody’s vehicle. In addition, it can occur when somebody else’s vehicle is lost or mis-delivered to a person, and that person does not use reasonable efforts to notify the true owner. Lastly, it occurs when somebody knows or has reason to know that the car they are driving was, in fact, stolen in the first place.
Possible Sentences for Car Theft / Theft of Means of Transportation
Theft of Means of Transportation is a class three (3) felony and carries varying levels of punishment:
- A first offense class three (3) felony carries a range of punishment of probation with zero (0) days in jail up to 1 year in jail; or prison of 2 years to 8.75 years of incarceration.
- If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the range of “prison only” punishment goes from 3.5 years to 16.25 years of incarceration.
- If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the range of “prison only” punishment is from 7.5 years to 25 years of incarceration.
Possible Defense Tactics
The most often seen defense to Theft of Means of Transportation / Auto Theft is “Consent”. This occurs when a person has permission to borrow somebody else’s car (or has had permission in the past) and then the other person rescinds that permission. This most often occurs in close relationships (roommates, boyfriend / girlfriend, fraternity houses, etc.). For example, roommates may be in an argument and on the “outs” with each other, and then one party will call the police and claim that the car has now been “stolen”. It is important to interview all parties involved to show that there was actually permission to drive the vehicle.
Another defense that is often seen is “Mistake of Fact”. This occurs when one person is either sold an automobile, or given an automobile to drive, and they believe the person who has loaned them the car was the actual owner of the vehicle. It may later turn out that person had stolen the car, and this was completely without the “knowledge” of the Defendant. Lastly, it can be shown that the person did not intend to “permanently deprive” the other person of their vehicle. This is what is known as a lesser included offense of “Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation / Joyriding”. This is a much lower felony range and carries a much lower punishment.
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The “Common Defenses” for Theft of Means of Transportation or Auto Theft, which a Theft of Means of Transportation or Auto Theft Lawyer may apply in any criminal case are numerous and diverse. One of most common defenses we encounter is a “Miranda rights Violation”. In Arizona, the standard of whether any inculpatory statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “Voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.
In addition, “Denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their Attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; ballistics; gunshot residue testing; computer analysis/”cloning hard drive” procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.
Lastly, one of the most common defenses is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Theft of Means of Transportation or Auto Theft Lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of both the specific defenses and the common defenses involved in a Theft of Means of Transportation or Auto Theft case.