Stealing a motor vehicle is not only a serious crime punishable by a prison sentence and high fines in New Jersey. It is often among a cluster of crimes related to the unlawful use of an automobile. Depending on the circumstances of the auto theft crime, you may be convicted of other crimes for the same incident, such as carjacking or recklessly driving a stolen vehicle. Moreover, when others conspire with you to commit auto theft, you may expose yourself to further crimes with more severe penalties. Though you may have options to escape some of the worst consequences, auto theft in New Jersey is prosecuted harshly, and you will want to seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney.
As a dedicated criminal defense firm that focuses entirely on criminal law in Burlington County and throughout the state of New Jersey, Proetta, Oliver, & Fay is a team of highly equipped lawyers who are ready to defend you against charges for stealing a car, a truck, a motorcycle, or another type of vehicle. With experience as a former Deputy Attorney with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, one of our partners, William C. Fay, IV, brings a wealth of prosecutorial and defense experience to handling each of our clients’ cases. If you have been arrested, charged with, or accused of automobile theft in Cinnaminson, Delran, Delanco, Evesham Township, Burlington City, Riverside, Mount Laurel, Pemberton, or another town in Southern New Jersey, contact our law office for a free consultation at 609-850-8284.
New Jersey’s Unique Stance on Motor Vehicle Theft Crimes
In the challenging economic climate in recent years due to the pandemic and rising costs of goods, including cars, the state’s auto theft numbers increased over the last few years, with the total number of stolen vehicles peaking in 2022. With increased policing and strict laws, New Jersey has clamped down on auto and auto theft-related crimes. While in many states, auto theft is a separate crime, typically called grand theft auto, New Jersey treats auto theft as one form of theft, like any other, for example, stolen packages from someone’s front porch. However, automobile theft convictions have enhancements, such as higher fines and driver’s license suspensions.
Auto Theft Charges in Burlington County New Jersey
The definition of theft is “an unlawful taking or disposition” in N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. Two types of theft are broadly determined as unlawfully taking, exercising control over, or transferring interest to movable or immovable property to deprive the rightful owner of their property and to benefit the taker. Thus, auto theft is an unlawful taking of movable property. N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5 further classify types of theft by fraud, deception, or extortion. However, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1 specifically addresses enhanced penalties for motor vehicle theft. The penalties for a conviction depend on the number of prior auto theft convictions, the theft circumstances, and the perpetrator’s age.
Penalties for Automobile Theft in Pemberton New Jersey
Auto theft is a third degree crime. A third degree crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000.00 fine. However, for the first offense of auto theft, a court can tack on an additional $500.00 in fines and a one-year license suspension. For a second offense, $750.00 in extra fines and a two-year suspension may be the sentence. And for a third conviction, $1,000.00 in additional fines and a potential ten-year license suspension are options for a sentencing judge. Additionally, a judge may sentence a repeat offender to longer sentences if a prosecutor requests.
The license suspension or postponement periods are discretionary to the judge, who may consider all crime factors, including the theft circumstances and the hardship of losing driving privileges. However, the additional fees, fines, and penalties are statutory. Furthermore, a judge can order a convicted defendant to pay restitution not to exceed $15,000.00 for a third degree crime, unless the vehicle’s value exceeds $75,000.00. In that case, the court can sentence the defendant to up to ten years in prison for a second-degree crime and order the defendant to pay higher restitution amounts to cover the car’s value.
What Happens if the Defendant is Under the Age of 17 and Charged with Car Theft in NJ?
For a juvenile under 17, the judge can delay the minor’s driving privileges for a year once they turn 17 for a first offense, two years for a second, and ten for a third. The start of the postponement is the date the judge gives the sentence unless a suspension or revocation is already in place. In that case, the subsequent delay or suspension begins when the previous one ends.
Additional Charges that May Be Filed for Stealing a Vehicle in Lumberton NJ
The crime circumstances may also give rise to other criminal convictions. For example, when auto theft occurs, and the driver operates the vehicle recklessly, risking injury to people or property damage, the state may charge the offender with a third degree crime. Likewise, a passenger who goes along for the ride, knowing the vehicle is stolen, commits a fourth degree crime, punishable by a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
Other crimes associated with auto theft include an adult soliciting or directing a minor to steal a motor vehicle, a second degree offense. A conviction leads to five to ten years in prison and a $150,000.00 fine. Moreover, the auto theft third degree charge and the soliciting or directing a minor charge are separate, and the sentences for each are consecutive; they do not merge.
Two other second degree charges are maintaining a stolen car or car parts facility and leading an auto theft ring. A conviction for maintaining a stolen car facility includes a license suspension for up to five years. Leading an auto theft ring is heading an operation of stealing, disposing of, distributing, and transporting stolen cars in New Jersey. If convicted, the fine is the greater of $250,000.00 or five times the retail value of the automobile and parts inventory existing upon arrest.
What Happens if Auto Theft Involves Violence or Injury in New Jersey?
Finally, carjacking, considered a violent crime, involves stealing or attempting to steal someone’s vehicle by threat or actual commission of bodily harm. Carjacking is a first degree crime. A conviction leads to 10 to 30 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years that a convicted felon serves before becoming eligible for parole.
Can You Get Pre-Trial Intervention for Car Theft in NJ?
A knowledgeable attorney at our office can help you apply to the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program for first-time non-violent offenders depending on your eligibility. If you get into the program, you serve your sentence in a supervised program lasting one to three years. After completing the program, you have a clean record. The conviction and arrest do not go on your record, so that you can have a fresh start. And if you are a veteran with mental health issues, you may be eligible for the Veterans’ Diversion Program rather than imprisonment.
Mount Laurel Car Theft Lawyers
No doubt, New Jersey punishes auto theft and related charges harshly. In efforts to combat the rising auto theft numbers, the legislature and governor specifically increased the penalties for car theft to harshen the results of a conviction. If you face auto theft charges in Burlington Township, Lumberton, North Hanover, Maple Shade, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Holly, or elsewhere in Burlington County and South New Jerse, consult a criminal defense lawyer at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay who can explain the charges and possible defenses.
After reviewing your case and all of the evidence, we can confidently defend you at trial, negotiate a lesser sentence, or assist with gaining entry into PTI when it is an option. A prosecutor may agree to reduce the charges when your role in the criminal enterprise was minor, or the stolen car was not damaged, and you show remorse, especially if this is your first offense. And if a trial is unavoidable, you want an experienced attorney who has prosecuted auto theft cases before to represent you, gathering exculpatory or mitigating evidence and raising doubts to a jury about your having committed a crime. For example, you may not have known the car you entered was stolen or that you did not have permission to take someone’s car.
Knowing what can be done to best resolve your automobile theft charges is paramount, so contact our office in Evesham at 609-850-8284 and get in touch with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. We are happy to provide answers and further details in a free consultation.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.
525 Highway 73, Suite 104, Marlton, New Jersey 08053 Phone: 609-850-8284 By Appointment Only
100 Horizon Center Boulevard, Hamilton, New Jersey, 08691 By Appointment Only
Point Pleasant Office
3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
By Appointment Only
180 Kings Highway, Middletown Township, New Jersey 07748 By Appointment Only