Auto Theft Defense Lawyers in Warren County, NJ
Preparing Solid Defense for Clients Charged with Stealing Cars and other Motor Vehicles in New Jersey
There are a few different types of theft offenses in New Jersey when it comes to stealing cars. In fact, if you are facing a car theft offense in Sussex or Warren County, you could be charged with joyriding or the unauthorized use of an automobile, auto theft, or carjacking. Each of these offenses is defined differently in New Jersey’s criminal code, and each has separate penalties and consequences. If you are accused of stealing a car or another motor vehicle in New Jersey, our criminal defense team is ready to fight for you. The Sussex and Warren County defense attorneys at our firm have decades of experience, and are available 24/7 to discuss your case and prepare your defense. No matter the nature of the auto theft allegations you or a loved one may be facing, we can help. Call us today at 973-755-1695 for a free consultation.
Difference Between Auto Theft and Joyriding in NJ
Auto theft involves the taking of someone else’s vehicle without their permission and without the intent of returning it. On the other hand, joyriding is the stealing of a car for a temporary period of time. Both are felonies. Joyriding is a fourth-degree crime punishable by a year and a half in jail and up to $10,000 in fines, while auto theft is a third-degree crime punishable by up to 5 years in jail and fines of up to $15,000.
Joyriding Detailed in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10
Joyriding or the unauthorized use of an automobile in New Jersey is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10, which sets forth:
a. A person commits a disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to withhold temporarily from the owner, he takes, operates, or exercises control over any means of conveyance, other than a motor vehicle, without consent of the owner or other person authorized to give consent.
“Means of conveyance” includes but is not limited to motor vehicles, bicycles, motorized bicycles, boats, horses, vessels, surfboards, rafts, skimobiles, airplanes, trains, trams, and trailers.
It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under subsections a., b., and c. of this section that the actor reasonably believed that the owner or any other person authorized to give consent would have consented to the operation had he known of it;
b. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, with the purpose of withholding temporarily from the owner, he takes, operates, or exercises control over a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or other person authorized to give consent;
c. A person commits a crime of the third degree if, with the purpose of withholding temporarily from the owner, he takes, operates, or exercises control over a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or other person authorized to give consent and operates the motor vehicle in a manner that creates a risk of injury to any person or a risk of damage to property; and
d. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if he enters and rides in a motor vehicle knowing that the motor vehicle has been taken or is being operated without the consent of the owner or other person authorized to consent.
Auto Theft Legal Implications Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3
If a person takes an automobile with the intention to permanently deprive the owner, then the offense would be characterized as auto theft pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, and theft of an automobile by unlawful taking is, at a minimum, a third degree crime. As with all third degree crimes in New Jersey, a penalty of between three and five years in New Jersey State Prison would apply to the theft of an automobile. Additionally, the court can also suspend the driving privileges for up to ten years for anyone convicted of auto theft. Thus, if you are accused of stealing a car in Sussex or Warren County under any circumstances, the penalties can have a far reaching impact on your life, and there is a lot on the line.
Unexpected Car Theft Related Consequences in New Jersey
There are numerous consequences to an auto theft charge that depend on the nature of the crime. Did you know that even if you didn’t steal the car but got in it knowing it was stolen, you are committing a felony, punishable by up to a year and a half in jail?
Restitution for the Vehicle
Another consequence of auto theft that offenders do not take into consideration is that they will be responsible for paying restitution if the vehicle and its contents are worth more than $7,500.
Enhanced Charges for Carjacking
Additionally, if by stealing the car, a person or property is placed in physical danger, a person is harmed, or is threatened with imminent harm in order to steal the car, the charge can be upgraded to a more serious crime called carjacking. If convicted of carjacking, you could face up to 30 years in prison plus mandatory minimum time for incarceration under the No Early Release Act.
Additional Fines Based on the Number of Offenses
If you have been convicted of auto theft more than once, you face additional fines and penalties. For a first auto theft conviction, you face an additional $500 fine and the loss of your New Jersey driver’s license for a year. And a second conviction results in an additional $750 fine and a two-year loss of driver’s license. And, for each additional auto theft conviction over two, you will have to pay a $1,000 fine and risk losing your driver’s license for 10 years. If these offenses occur for minors under the age of 17, when they are legally allowed to obtain a driver’s license, the license suspension times will begin when they turn 17.
Ways to Defend an NJ Auto Theft Case
When it comes to prosecuting an auto theft case, the prosecutor must not only prove that the defendant was found in possession of a stolen car. They must prove that the defendant knew the car was stolen. Prosecution based not on finding the defendant in the car but on circumstantial evidence faces many more difficulties in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the responsible party. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you build a strong defense and utilize police reports, witnesses, experts, and other defense tactics to support your case. An additional defense that can be used regards the means by which the law enforcement officials conducted the initial arrest. If there is any evidence that the police overstepped their legal rights, the case could be dismissed.
Alternative Diversionary Programs Available for Vehicle Theft Charges
There is a possibility that, with the support of a skilled criminal defense lawyer, you will be an eligible candidate for a diversionary program if your auto theft was relatively minor in scope, you are a first-time offender, and your crime did not include violence. Our criminal defense team will help you explore the option of a pretrial diversionary program like Pretrial Intervention (PTI).
Belvidere Auto Theft Attorneys – Call Today
The crime of auto theft varies in scope and severity. An experienced legal team on your side is essential to ensure that your rights are protected, and all options for alternative sentences, diversions, and preventing a conviction are exhausted before you are subjected to years of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. An auto theft defense lawyer will help show that you are not a menace to society and that you made a mistake, likely affecting the sentencing and broadening options for consequences, or they’ll help you with such a tight defense that the prosecution will not be able to prove guilt at all. We have a long track record of successfully defending clients in criminal cases for automobile theft in Stillwater, Phillipsburg, Hopatcong, Sparta, Belvidere, Lopatcong, Hackettstown, and other Warren County and Sussex County communities. Contact a dedicated lawyer at 973-755-1695 today to discuss your next steps.