According to the Maryland State Police, an automobile is stolen every 45 minutes. Owners of half of all stolen vehicles left their keys inside the car, and owners of over half (60%) of all stolen vehicles left their doors unlocked. A staggering 95% of all stolen vehicles had no anti-theft devices.
In Maryland, auto theft is not uncommon, but it carries some stiff penalties. If you were charged with stealing a vehicle, it’s important that you understand what penalties you may be facing and how you can work with an attorney to protect your rights under the law.
Definition of Vehicle Theft
In Maryland, vehicle theft is defined as knowingly and willfully removing a vehicle from the lawful owner’s custody without his or her consent.
Penalties for Vehicle Theft
The theft of a motor vehicle is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Additionally, the defendant must either return the vehicle to its owner or pay the owner the full value of the vehicle if it is unable to be returned.
Potential Defenses for Vehicle Theft
There are a number of possible defenses for charges of vehicle theft, depending on the facts surrounding the case. These include but are not limited to:
- A mistake in ownership. You genuinely believed that you were the owner of the car — for example, you purchased a vehicle privately and the previous owner did not transfer ownership of the vehicle to you.
- No intent to steal. You did not intend to steal the car — for example, you borrowed a friend’s car in good faith but not return it when agreed.
- Coercion and/or duress. You were forced to steal a car — for example, you were coerced to steal a car after being threatened by someone else.
- Return of the property. You returned the property shortly after taking it — for example, you took a vehicle for a joyride but returned it to the same place you got it from a short while later.
When to Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
Regardless of the circumstances, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are being accused of vehicle theft. If convicted, you face serious, life-changing penalties and a permanent criminal record.
Richard J. Brueckner is a seasoned Maryland defense lawyer who has worked with individuals accused of theft. He will aggressively defend you against prosecutors that would like nothing more than to put you behind bars. Call today for a consultation at (410) 430-1464.