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Auto Theft At A Glance


What is Auto-Theft?

Motor vehicle auto-theft is a criminal action that refers to the stealing of, or the attempt to steal, a motor vehicle. Any motorized, land-based vehicle (buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, trailers, and snow mobiles) that is stolen will constitute an auto-theft charge.

When an individual is caught stealing a motorized vehicle they will typically be charged with grand theft auto. Grand theft auto, or auto-theft, is considered a felonious action in all 50 states in America. The term “grand” is held separate from “petty” in an auto-theft case to indicate that the stolen motor vehicle possessed a dollar amount above a certain threshold. As a result of this classification, petty-theft (since the object stolen is considered to have little value) is typically a misdemeanor while grand-theft is a felony charge.

By and large, a grand-theft or auto-theft charge will lead to heftier fines and the increased chance of incarceration. Individual states develop statutes to define what constitutes petty-theft and grand-theft. Those charged with auto-theft will likely face jail time, and those individuals who are repeat offenders are typically given harsher sentences.

In order to initiate and secure a grand theft auto conviction, a prosecutor needs to prove two basic elements (varies by jurisdiction):

The prosecutor must reveal that the defendant knowingly and willfully obtained or used another individual’s motor vehicle; and

The prosecutor needs to demonstrate that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner from operating the vehicle.

Those who commit grand theft-auto do so to either use the cars themselves or to earn a profit through the re-sale of the car. As a result of tracking devices and registrations with licensing authorities, the latter poses a grave risk for the perpetrator.

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