Theft of Means of Transportation, aka: Auto Theft

A.R.S. §13-1814

What is the Definition?

A person commits the crime of Theft of Means of Transportation, also known as Auto-Theft, most commonly where s/he takes control of another person’s means of transportation with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. According to A.R.S. § 18.01(9), the means of transportation includes any type of vehicle.

What Elements of the Crime Must Be Proven?

In order to find you guilty, the prosecutor must prove that you:

  1. Knowingly;
  2. Committed any of the following acts:
    1. Controlled anther person’s vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive them of it; or
    2. Used the vehicle of another, which was entrusted to you, for an unauthorized term or use; or
    3. Obtained another person’s vehicle by material misrepresentation with the intent to permanently deprive them of that property; or
    4. Appropriated a lost or misdelivered vehicle for your own or another’s use, without reasonable efforts to notify the true owner;
    5. Controlled another person’s vehicle, knowing that it was stolen.
What are Some Related Offenses?
  • Unlawful use of Means of Transportation: You will be charged with this crime instead of Theft of Means of Transportation when the prosecutor finds that you had the intent to return the vehicle.
  • Extortion: You can be charged with this crime where you obtain the property or services from another by threatening that person with physical injury, damage to their property, or the exposure of a secret.1
  • Embezzlement: You can be charged with this crime where a person entrusts either property or a service to you for a certain purpose and you use it in an unauthorized way.2
Can You Give Me an Example?

Gina received a phone call from her friend, Charlotte, who said she was going to sell a car in Mesa, Arizona. Charlotte asked Gina to drive it there for her. Gina agreed to do so and drove the car to a church barbeque in Mesa where the car was sold for $400. At the time, Gina did not know who owned the car that had been sold. Two days later, the owner of the car, who had spent time with Charlotte at a bar and casino just days earlier, reported his car stolen on April 9, 2012. The Maricopa District Attorney arrested and charged Gina, along with Charlotte, with committing the crime of Theft of Means of Transportation, also known as auto-theft.

What Are the Defenses?
  • You had permission from owner to take the vehicle or item;
  • You had no knowledge that vehicle or item was stolen;
  • There was no reason for you to believe it was stolen;
  • Law enforcement arrested wrong person.
What are the Penalties?

The penalties for Theft of Means of Transportation, also known as Auto-Theft, are severe as it is a classified as a Class 3 Felony, punishable up to 8.75 years in prison. Felonies in Arizona can range between a Class 1, which is the most serious, to a Class 6, which is the least serious; therefore, Auto-theft falls on the higher end of the scale.

The other consequences of a theft crime also apply, which may include years of court probation3 and jail time (in lieu of prison time), a criminal protective order4, restitution to the victim, and standard fines and fees. Worst of all, the conviction for Theft of Means of Transportation will go on your permanent record, affecting your future employment, state licensing and other benefits.

What are the Immigration Consequences?

Although attorney may be able plea bargain a good deal in Maricopa Superior Court, this conviction could cost you severely in Immigration Court. If you are a permanent resident, then a plea to Theft of Means of Transportation can make you subject to deportation if you have any other CIMT crime on your record since receiving your status. If you are a visa holder or undocumented immigrant who is trying to obtain your permanent resident status, then a plea to Theft of Means of Transportation will make you inadmissible to the United States as it is a Felony and thereby ineligible to adjust your status. In both cases, you will be summoned to Immigration Court, charged with a ground for removal or inadmissibility, and deported. Your Lavy Law Phoenix Theft Attorney will make sure that you have an immigration safe plea in Maricopa Superior Court.

1 [1] A.R.S. §13-1804

2 [2] A.R.S. §13-1802(A)(2)

3 [3] Court probation requires you to comply with terms ordered by the judge during a specified time period. The terms differ little from county to county. This probation is also known as informal probation because it is unsupervised- you do not have to report to a probation officer.

4 [4] A criminal protective order is a court order that prevents a person from coming within a certain distance of a location. If you are found at this location, you are in violation of the order and can be arrested. Police officers have a record of your stay away order in the electronic database in their police cars.

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