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Theft of Means of Transportation

Under Arizona law, you may face theft charges if you unlawfully take another person's property without his/her consent. To face theft charges, you must have had the intent to deprive the owner of the property. If you mistakenly take the property, which you thought belonged to you, you may not face theft charges because you had no intent to steal. You may face auto theft charges if you take another person's means of transportation. Auto theft is a severe crime under Arizona law, and the associated penalties are detrimental. If you are facing auto theft charges in California, Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you come up with a proper defense. 

 

Theft Laws in Arizona

Several statutes under Arizona law define the crime of theft. You can face theft charges if you commit certain offenses, including theft of trade secrets, shoplifting, theft by extortion, and auto theft.  Theft crimes in Arizona have common elements. The main element of theft crimes is taking another person's property intending to deprive them of the property. If you make a material misrepresentation and obtain another person's property, you may face charges. You will face charges if you have the intent of depriving the person of the property. You may also be guilty of theft if you control property, knowing that the property belongs to another person. Even if you assert that you did not know that the property belonged to another person, as long as you had a reason to know, you may face charges.

What is property under Arizona law? Arizona statutes define property as any item of value, including trade secrets. The item may either be tangible, like vehicles or intangible.  The law defines values as the worth or the fair market value of a property at the time of theft. The law defines control as excluding other people, even the property owner, from using and controlling the property.

The charges you face for committing a theft crime will depend on the character and the value of the stolen property. If you take any property worth less than $1,000, you will face misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor crime is punishable by imprisonment that does not exceed six months.

If you steal property whose value ranges between $1,000 and $2,000, you will be guilty of committing a class 6 felony, according to Arizona law. You will also face similar charges if you steal a firearm or an animal to use in animal fighting. The consequences for class 6 felony include imprisonment for a period ranging from 6 months to 1.5 years.

If you steal property whose values range from $2,000 to $3,000, you will be guilty of committing a class 5 felony. Under Arizona law, the penalties for class 5 felonies include imprisonment punishable with imprisonment ranging from 0.75 years to 2 years.

If the stolen asset has a value ranging from $3,000 to $4,000, the crime is a class 4 felony and is punishable by imprisonment ranging from 1.5 years to 3 years. You will also face class 4 felony charges if you steal a vehicle engine or vehicle transmission.

For theft of property with a value ranging from $4,000 to $25,000, you will face Class 3 felony charges. The associated penalties include imprisonment ranging from 2.5 years to 7 years.

If you commit a theft crime and the property involved has a value exceeding $25,000, you will face Class 2 felony charges. The applicable penalties for class 2 felony charges include imprisonment ranging from 4 to 10 years.

 

Auto Theft in Arizona

The state of Arizona considers auto theft is a severe crime. The state has strict statutes relating to auto theft. Arizona ranks among the top ten states in the U.S with the most cases of auto thefts. It is for this reason that the state has stringent laws relating to auto theft. The law imposes severe punishment to people who take vehicles belonging to other people without their consent.

The crime of stealing another person's vehicle in Arizona is known as theft of means of transportation.  Arizona law makes it a crime to take another person's means of transportation without the person's consent. You may also face auto theft charges if you use another person's vehicle in an unauthorized manner. You would face charges even if you had the other person's consent to use his/her car. 

According to Arizona law, means of transportation refers to any vehicle. The law further defines controlling as excluding others from using their property. The law also defines depriving as withholding the property interest from the owner permanently or for a period that is adequate for the owner to lose the enjoyment of the vehicle. You may deprive the owner of the car with the intent of restoring it only after receiving a reward or a payment. You may also have the intention of transferring or disposing of the car so that the owner is not able to recover it. 

If you commit the first offense of theft of means of transportation, you will face Class 3 felony charges. The possible consequences for a first offense include serving formal felony probation. If the court recommends probation, you will not serve a jail term. You may also serve a jail term of one year if there is a presence of aggravated circumstances; the consequences may include serving imprisonment of 2 years up to 8.75 years.

If you commit a second auto theft offense, you will face Class 3 felony charges under Arizona law. You will serve a longer prison term ranging from 3.5 years to 16.25 years in prison.

If you commit a third auto theft offense in Arizona, you will still receive class 3 felony charges. The associated consequences include imprisonment ranging from 7.5 years to 25 years.

 

Proof Needed for a Crime of Theft of Means of Transportation

For you to face charges for theft of means of transportation, the specific proof is necessary. It must be evident that you controlled another individual's means of transportation. It must also be apparent that you had the intent of permanently depriving the individual of the possession of the vehicle. You may also face charges if the car was in your possession for limited use. You will face charges if, while under your possession, you used the car in an unauthorized manner and at an unauthorized time.

If you misrepresent facts to obtain another person's means of transportation, you may face charges under Arizona law. You may face charges if it is evident that you had the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the vehicle possession. You may also face charges if you have another person's means of transportation previously lost or miss-delivered. If you encounter a lost or misplaced means of transportation, you should not possess it. To avoid facing charges, you should make an inquiry into the true owner and make reasonable efforts to notify the owner.

Under Arizona law, you will face charges if you use another person's means of transportation, yet you are aware, or you should reasonably be aware that the means of transportation are stolen. 

 

Reporting a Crime of Theft of Means of Transportation in Arizona

In the state of Arizona, vehicle theft crimes have strict reporting procedures. The law requires the reporting person to produce a sworn document or an affidavit outlining the facts of the alleged crime. Typically, the law enforcement officer delivers the affidavit in person to the relevant local law enforcement agency. If the law enforcement officer does not deliver the affidavit, the reporting person should deliver or mail the affidavit to the law enforcement officer. The affidavit should be notarized and signed and should reach the relevant law enforcement agency within seven days from the date of crime reporting. If the law enforcement agency does not receive the sworn document within thirty days from the crime reporting, the vehicle theft information will no longer exist in the database. The stolen vehicle information no longer exists in the national crime information center's database. The information will also not exist in the Arizona criminal justice information system's database. 

 

Theft Charges for Failing to Return a Vehicle in Default

You may face auto theft charges under Arizona law if you fail to return a vehicle that you are making payments on or leasing. The law outlines this crime as "Unlawful Failure to Return a Motor Vehicle Subject to a Security Interest."  If you default on vehicle payments and you fail to return the vehicle, the lienholder may accuse you with vehicle theft after 90 days from payment default.  As long you received the proper demand notices, and you did not make an effort to pay, you may face charges. Under Arizona law, this offense is a class 6 felony, and you may encounter a potential jail sentence. 

It is important to note that in most cases, law enforcement officers do not distinguish between a crime of auto theft and failure to honor payments. Therefore, if you are late on making vehicle payments with more than 90 days, you should expect severe police action.  The police will undertake the usual procedures as they would in a theft case to recover the vehicle from you. The processes may include the use of backup officers, guns, and in some instances, helicopters. 

For a class 3 felony offense of auto theft, you may face a minimum prison sentence of 2.5 years and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.  If there were some aggravating factors, you might face additional charges. Aggravating factors may include committing a crime of carjacking and exposing a vehicle's driver and passengers to danger. If aggravating factors are present, you may face up to 12.5 years of incarceration. 

What are the elements of the crime of "unlawful failure to return a motor vehicle subject to a security interest?"  It must be evident that you did not pay any money on the lien for 90 days or more. It must also be apparent that the relevant creditor notified you in writing that you are 90 days behind in making the vehicle payments.  The creditor may also notify you through the mail.

 

What should a Creditor's Notice Include?

While informing you that you are behind in making vehicle payments, a creditor's notice should include several items. First, the statement should inform you that you are in default of the loan contract/ agreement.  It should also inform you that if you do not return the vehicle within a period of 30 days after receiving the notice, you will face criminal prosecution. The statement should clearly outline the vehicle in question by stating the make and model of the vehicle. The statement should also clearly outline the year of manufacture of the car. 

In the notice, the creditor should also inform you of his/her location. The creditor should provide the address of his/her business and hours in which the business is operational to help you while returning the vehicle. The notice should clearly outline the maximum consequences/penalties for failing to return the car as agreed conditional to a security interest.

While facing charges, it must be evident that even after receiving the creditor's notice, you did not return the vehicle within 30 days, as advised in the statement. It must be clear that you had the intent of hindering or preventing the effecting of the relevant creditor's secured interest. The prosecutor has to prove that while acting within this intent, you failed to return the car to the relevant secured creditor. You did not allow the appropriate creditor to repossess the motor vehicle.

The law also requires the initial contract entered into while establishing the security interest in a motor vehicle to contain some information:

The contract should have a formal statement outlining that it is illegal for the vehicle holder does not return the car within 30 days after the holder receives a creditor's notice after default. The contract should also outline that the vehicle holder will receive a default notice via mail through the address stated on the loan contract or agreement. The vehicle holder must be aware that it is his/her responsibility to keep his address updated and inform the creditor in case of an address change.  The initial contract should also outline the highest penalty if the vehicle holder illegally fails to return the motor vehicle conditional to a security interest. 

 

Exceptions of Theft Charges

In some instances, Arizona law may exempt you from receiving theft charges even if you do not return the vehicle secured by interest within 30 days upon receiving a creditor's notice.  You may avoid prosecution if it is evident that you were physically incapacitated. You may assert that you were unable to obtain permission or to request the relevant creditor to allow you to retain the vehicle. You may also avoid charges if it is evident that the motor vehicle was in a condition that could not allow you to return it to the secured creditor. To avoid facing charges, it must be evident that the motor vehicle was in that condition through no fault of your own.  You may also avoid facing theft charges if you have evidence that you have secured interest in the vehicle per Arizona law § 47-2711, subsection C.

It is important to note that if the law enforcement officer seizes the car from you, the relevant creditor is responsible for meeting the towing costs.  The appropriate creditor is also responsible for meeting the storage costs and all other related fees.  It is even more important to note that if you do not return a vehicle whose payments you have defaulted, the law considers the car stolen, according to § 28-4845. If you fail to return a car subject to property, you will face Class 6 felony charges under Arizona law. 

 

Related Offenses

Under Arizona law, certain crimes are related to the crime of theft of means of transportation. The court may charge you with related offenses alongside auto theft charges. The court may also charge you with the related crimes instead of auto theft charges. Some of the related crimes include:

 

Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation

The crime of illegal use of means of transportation is also known as joyriding under Arizona law. Unlike the crime of theft of means of transportation, joyriding does not include intent to deprive a vehicle owner of the vehicle. You may face charges for unlawful use of means of transportation if you knowingly take control of another person's vehicle without authorization. The prosecutor must also prove that you intentionally and knowingly ride the car. It must be evident that you knew or you had a reason to know that the person controlling the car has no legal authority to possess the vehicle. 

If the crime of unlawful use of means of transportation entails taking control or possession of a vehicle, it will attract class 5 felony charges. If the crime involves riding or being in a misappropriated or stolen car, you will face Class 6 felony charges. Felony 5 offense may attract imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 2 years. A class 6 felony may attract charges ranging from 6 months to 18 months.

 

Contact a Phoenix Criminal Attorney near Me

If you are currently facing charges for theft of means of transportation in Arizona, the consequences are detrimental. Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you come up with a good defense strategy to fight the charges. Contact us at 602-551-8092 and speak to one of our attorneys today. 

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