Motor Vehicle Theft Defense Lawyer in Phoenix

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AZ Motor Vehicle Theft

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Motor Vehicle Theft Defense AZ

Under Arizona law, any type of motor vehicle theft can result in a felony conviction. Felony charges like these can permanently change the course of your life. If you or someone you love has been charged with a vehicle theft crime, you need a Phoenix, AZ motor vehicle theft attorney from Belén Law Firm. Belén Olmedo Guerra can help you explore all your legal options and craft the best possible defense strategy. Call our Phoenix office today at (602) 715-0908 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney

Arizona Vehicle and Auto Theft Laws

The state of Arizona takes auto theft crimes very seriously. Taking control of another person’s vehicle without their permission, even temporarily, can warrant years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Depending on the facts of your case, the criminal prosecution team may even present evidence that can put you in prison for up to 25 years. Even a first offense can mean a presumptive 3-and-a-half-year prison sentence, not to mention a felony conviction that permanently stays on your record. 

Having an experienced criminal defense team can make sure you put up a proper fight against the evidence in a theft case and any related crimes. The sooner you reach out to the skilled Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Belén Law Firm, the quicker we can get started on building your solid legal defense strategy. 

What is Theft of Means of Transportation?

Theft of means of transportation is also known as theft of a vehicle. This law, found in ARS § 13-1814, involves any vehicle (motorcycle, truck, or car) that is taken without lawful authority. In order to receive a conviction, prosecutors must prove the element of intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. This includes physically taking the vehicle or acquiring the vehicle through material misrepresentation (fraud). It can also include accepting a misdelivered vehicle without going through reasonable efforts to find the true owner. This law also applies if a person knowingly buys a stolen vehicle. The prosecution team can prove this if you bought the vehicle for less than fair market value. If you purchased it outside of regular business hours, they can use this as evidence of knowledge that it was stolen, as well.   

Auto theft can result in a Class 3 felony conviction. The sentencing for a Class 3 felony depends on the number of historical priors a person has. According to Arizona’s felony sentencing guidelines, auto theft may result in a minimum prison sentence of 2 years for a first offense and a maximum prison sentence of 25 years for a third or subsequent offenses.

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ARS 13-1803: Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation

Unlawful use of means of transportation (also called joyriding) can be found under ARS § 13-1803 and is a Class 5 felony. This is punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison for first-time offenders, 3.75 years for second-time offenders, and 7.5 years for third or subsequent offenses. This crime involves the unauthorized use of a vehicle without consent from the owner of the vehicle and can apply to both the driver and any passengers. Drivers may be convicted of a Class 5 felony, and any passengers may receive a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony can carry a sentence ranging anywhere from 4 months to up to two years for first-time offenders. Multiple prior convictions can result in longer, harsher sentences.  

What’s the Difference Between Theft and Joyriding? 

The key difference between theft and joyriding is the intent behind the act. The law defines theft as the intention of knowingly and permanently depriving the owner of their vehicle. With joyriding, there is no intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle.  

Theft of a Vehicle Engine or Transmission

Theft of a vehicle transmission or engine (no matter the value) can result in a Class 4 felony. This crime can be found under Arizona’s general theft statutes, ARS § 13-1802. Depending on the possibility of prior offenses, the sentence for a Class 4 felony ranges anywhere between 1 year to 15 years behind bars. 

Theft of Catalytic Converters in Phoenix

In recent years, there has been a drastically growing number of catalytic converter thefts in the Phoenix area. In fact, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, claims involving catalytic converter theft increased 325% between 2019 and 2020 alone. Though many people may not be familiar with their vehicle’s catalytic converter, they are no doubt valuable, as made evident by such a significant increase in thefts. Catalytic converters are emission control devices that can be found in the exhaust system of a vehicle. The purpose of these devices is to convert toxic, pollutant gases into safer and less harmful ones.

In response to the catalytic converter theft “crime epidemic,,’ Arizona Governer Doug Ducey and the House of Representatives passed House Bill 2652, which makes the possession of a used catalytic converter (unless by a scrap metal dealer) a criminal offense. Under A.R.S. § 13-3728, it is illegal “for a person to purchase, solicit, advertise, possess or sell a used catalytic converter or any nonferrous parts of a catalytic converter.” A violation of this legislation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

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Theft of Rental Vehicles

When a person rents a rental car, they often sign an agreement to return the vehicle by a specific date and time. Rental vehicles must be returned within 72 hours (3 days) of the end of the rental period. Unlawful failure to return rented property can result in a Class 5 felony. The sentence for a Class 5 felony ranges from a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 7 and a half years for repeat offenders. However, these charges can usually be dismissed if your legal team can prove you were incapacitated or got permission from the owner to extend the rental agreement. 

What Should I Do If I’m Arrested for Theft of a Motor Vehicle?

If you are arrested for theft of a motor vehicle, it is important that you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and the integrity of your case. Following an arrest, you should:

  • Calmly inform the police officers that you will not answer any questions without an attorney present.
  • Immediately contact Belén Olmedo Guerra at the Belén Law Firm.
  • Stay calm and stay silent. Do not answer any questions until your attorney is present. 

After an arrest, the most important thing to remember is that you still have constitutional rights. An arrest is not a conviction. If a law enforcement officer ask you to answer some questions, remember that you can refuse to say anything without criminal defense lawyers present. You have the right to remain silent, and you should take advantage of that right, as anything you say can and will likely be used against you later. Remember that law enforcement is not on your side. They are actively trying to get a confession from you so they can close the case. 

At Belén Law Firm, we understand that arrests are not limited to weekdays from 9-5; neither is Belén Olmedo Guerra. Our firm provides 24/7 legal advice, so we are always ready and waiting to take your call. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can begin working on a defense strategy for your theft charges. 

Common Defenses for Motor Vehicle Theft

An experienced criminal defense attorney will work hard to get your theft charges reduced or even dismissed. Your Phoenix theft crimes attorney from Belén Law Firm will go over every piece of evidence in your case as well as every possible defense. Some common defenses for motor vehicle theft include:

  • Mistake of Fact – If you are unaware that the vehicle was stolen, the prosecution cannot prove that you intended to permanently deprive the true owner of their property. 
  • Consent – During arguments, upset family members, friends, or partners may report their car stolen out of spite. You might have typically had permission to use the vehicle, but the vehicle owner became upset and took the permission away without you knowing. 
  • Violation of constitutional rights – Police officers have to follow a specific code of conduct during an arrest. This includes informing the accused person of their right to remain silent and right to an attorney. If police officers do not give this information after the arrest and before any interrogation, a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue a violation of constitutional rights.
  • Coerced statements – Law enforcement officers can be very forceful when trying to get information from a suspect. If any admission of guilt is found to be coerced from the accused, this can warrant a dismissal of the charges.
  • Police mistakes/police reporting errors – Arizona law has specific instructions for reporting a stolen vehicle. This involves the victim signing an affidavit in front of the police officer who took the complaint. If the affidavit is mailed to the police at a later date, the law enforcement agency must receive the signed affidavit within seven days. Failure to do so can result in a dismissal of charges. 
  • Physical incapacitation – This can be a defense in the case of a rental vehicle. If the defense team can prove the accused was physically incapacitated and unable to return the vehicle, the charges may be dismissed. 
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Top Criminal Defense Attorney for Motor Vehicle Theft in Phoenix

Belén Olmedo Guerra is a 24-hour criminal defense attorney who understands the significant impact of felony charges in Arizona. For instance, a felony conviction can take away your right to carry firearms and vote. It can also make it significantly harder to find employment, housing, and education opportunities. As such, an experienced criminal defense team can mean the difference between spending nearly a decade in prison and going home to your family.

The legal team at Belén Law Firm is here to help protect your rights and fight for your freedom. We offer unmatched aggressive representation for every client and case we take. If you have been charged with a motor vehicle theft offense, don’t hesitate to call us at (602) 715-0908 or complete our online intake form. Once an attorney-client relationship is established, our experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorneys can start working on your theft charges immediately.

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