The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has experienced a dramatic drop in auto thefts over the last two decades according to a report issued by WITF5. While this is good news, there are still more than 14,000 vehicles reported stolen annually. Like other theft statutes in Pennsylvania, there are various degrees of theft associated with automobiles including:
Those who are facing auto theft charges will be facing a third degree felony charge. Even when a vehicle is worth less than $2,000 the charges will still rise to the level of a felony. A first time offender could be facing jail time of up to seven years and fines up to $15,000.
Anyone who has taken someone’s motor vehicle without their permission could face charges of joyriding. Unauthorized use of an automobile could result in a second degree misdemeanor offense which could mean up to two years jail time and up to $5,000 in fines.
This is a very specific crime which involves the owner or driver of a vehicle being in the car during the time of the robbery. No violence has to occur for the defendant to be charged with carjacking. The penalties for carjacking, which is a first degree felony, could be as up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to $25,000.
Rental Car Theft
Under Pennsylvania statutes, anyone who fails to return a rental car could be facing theft or joyriding charges and in some cases, may face both.
Auto Theft Defenses
Anyone who is facing auto theft charges, regardless of the type of theft charge should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who understands Pennsylvania theft statutes. Because the penalties are harsh and the fines are steep, an attorney can work with you to determine the exact situation that led to your arrest. Some of the possible defenses include:
- Owner Consent – If you have received consent from an owner to use their vehicle, such as in the case of a rental car, we can mount a defense based on that consent. For example, if you rented a car and failed to return it on the date it was due because you forgot the return date, this is a good defense.
- Implied Consent – If you have reason to believe that given the circumstances you faced at the time of using someone’s vehicle the owner would have given permission for you to use the car, we may be able to develop a defense based on that belief. One example of this is if your child was injured and you needed to get to the hospital immediately and you took your neighbors car, it is possible that had the neighbor been aware of the situation, they would have loaned the car to you because of the emergency.
- Intent – In order to prove you have stolen a car, the prosecutor must prove you had the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle. In the event they are not able to prove this, the more serious felony charge of theft could be reduced to a misdemeanor charge of joyriding.
Being accused of stealing a vehicle is very serious and you should never take it lightly. Like any other criminal charge you are found guilty of, you could have a life-long criminal record that will dog you forever. Anytime you are arrested and charged with any car theft charge, you should contact a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney who understands the theft laws and is willing to fight hard to get the charges reduced or dropped completely. You should contact an attorney immediately upon your arrest to ensure you do not say anything that could later be used against you in a court proceeding.