Arizona Car Theft Lawyer
Being charged with stealing someone else’s vehicle is certainly cause for alarm. Car theft is a very serious crime with serious penalties that require professional representation from an Arizona car theft lawyer. But not every car theft charge will lead to a conviction. To convict you of theft, the prosecutor will need to prove that you, deliberately and knowingly, set out to deprive the rightful owner of their property. You risk damage to your reputation, freedom, and bank account, and if you are not a U.S. citizen, to your immigration status. But there are circumstances in which you could be charged when you had no such intent; the onus is on the prosecutor to prove that you did. Having an experienced and successful criminal defense lawyer at Corso Law Group to represent you may often prevent you from suffering the worst consequences and preventing a serious and ongoing disruption of your life.
Three Categories of Car Theft in Arizona
Arizona statutes specify three distinct crimes that fall under the umbrella of motor vehicle theft:
Theft of Means of Transportation
Cars, trucks, and motorcycles are included as “means of transportation” under the definition of this charge, a Class 3 felony, which can land you in prison for between 2 and 8.75 years for a first offense. If you are facing this charge, you are being accused of knowingly and unlawfully:
- Taking someone else’s vehicle intending to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle
- Using someone else’s vehicle with which you have been entrusted with for a specific purpose or period of time and using it for some other purpose or an extended period of time
- Obtaining possession of someone else’s vehicle by means a trick, lie, or fraud, intending to permanently deprive the owner of that vehicle
- Keeping a vehicle that was mistakenly delivered to you without attempting to notify the real owner
- Using a vehicle that you knew or should have known was stolen
Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation
This charge entails taking someone’s car without intending to keep it, but without the owner’s permission. If you find a car with the keys in the ignition or hotwire a vehicle and take it for a spin, this is what you will usually be charged with. You can face this charge if you are a passenger in a vehicle that you know or have reason to know does not belong to the person possessing it. If you were the one in control of the vehicle, you can be charged with a Class 5 felony, punishable by 6 months to 2.5 years in prison; if you were a passenger, the charge will typically be a Class 6 felony, with a possible prison sentence of between 6 and 2 years. Prior felony convictions usually mean, stiffer penalties.
Unlawful Failure to Return Rented or Leased Property
If you rent or lease a vehicle, you have 72 hours after the rental or lease agreement expires to return it, or if there is some kind of problem keeping you from returning on time, to notify the owner and work out an extension agreement. If you fail to do either, at the end of the three-day grace period, you can be charged with unlawful failure to return rented or leased property, a Class 5 felony, with prison from 6 months and 2.5 years in prison, for a first offense.
Defenses to Motor Vehicle Theft Charges
Don’t assume that just because you have been charged with car theft that it a sure thing you will be convicted. A good Arizona auto theft lawyer will often be able to mitigate the negative consequences to your life, keep you out of jail, and sometimes even get the charges dismissed. These are some defenses that your lawyer may employ in your behalf, depending on the specific circumstances of your case:
- You believed that the owner had consented to your using the vehicle.
- You didn’t intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle. (For example, the car was blocking a driveway and the keys were in the ignition; you drove it away to allow access to the driveway)
- You were physically unable, because of illness or incapacity, to contact the owner to get permission to keep the vehicle longer than you were supposed to have it, or longer than the lease term.
- You weren’t able to return the vehicle on time because it broke down through no fault of yours.
- You didn’t know or suspect that the driver who offered you a ride had stolen the vehicle.
Get the Legal Help You Need
In Arizona, get the experienced defense that can reduce or eliminate unnecessary upheaval to your life when facing a car theft charge by contacting an Arizona car theft lawyer at Corso Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona.