Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) §13-1814 describes what is considered auto theft in Arizona. According to the statute, which is titled “Theft of Means of Transportation,” anyone who knowingly:
- Controls another person’s means of transportation without the intent of returning the vehicle;
- Fails to return another person’s means of transportation after borrowing the vehicle;
- Takes another person’s vehicle using misrepresentation with the intent of taking the vehicle permanently;
- Comes into control of another person’s means of transportation after the vehicle was lost or misdelivered without attempting to notify the true owner;
- Controls someone else’s means of transportation knowing or having reason to know that the property was stolen.
The statute states that theft of means of transportation in Arizona is considered a Class 3 felony.
David Michael Cantor explains the Auto Theft charges:
Situations which result in Charges for Theft of Means of Transportation in Arizona
Because there are a variety of actions that can be construed as theft of means of transportation in Arizona, it is important to understand under what circumstances someone could be charged with the crime, which carries serious penalties. Examples include:
- Breaking into and stealing the vehicle of an unknown person, which is what most people think of when they hear the term “auto theft.”
- Obtaining permission from a friend or relative to take their means of transportation for a weekend and then failing to return it as promised.
- Providing false information to the owner of a car in order to take permanent possession, such as claiming to be a repossession company;
- Taking possession of a vehicle meant for someone else without taking reasonable efforts to locate the actual owner;
- Purchases or drives a vehicle the individual knew or should have known was stolen, even if they were not present at the time of the theft.
Penalties for Auto Theft in Arizona
The minimum sentence range after a conviction for theft of means of transportation in Arizona is 2.5 to 3.5 years and a maximum of 10 years in prison. If the state can prove aggravated circumstances, such as a carjacking where the actual owner or their passengers could have been injured or killed, the sentence could be as much as 12.5 years of incarceration.
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Defenses to Auto Theft Statute
There are several defenses to charges of unlawful use of means of transportation in Arizona and they include:
- Improper Police Reporting – ARS §13-1814 states that anyone who alleges their vehicle was stolen must sign an affidavit provided by the law enforcement officer who took the complaint in person. The statute does allow the affidavit to be completed and signed in front of a notary if the complaint is not taken in person. If not taken in person, the affidavit must be returned in person or by mail to the law enforcement agency who took the complaint within seven days. If the affidavit is not returned within seven days, police are supposed to remove the vehicle information from national crime databases and the Arizona criminal justice system. False affidavits could result in criminal charges against the person filing the false statement.
- Consent – There are occasions when an auto theft report in Arizona is issued when the original owner actually gave consent to use the vehicle and then rescinded that permission at a later date. This often occurs in close relationships, such as boyfriend/girlfriend, roommates, and family members. Often, an argument ensues between the parties and the owner of the car reports the vehicle stolen out of spite.
- Mistake of Fact – When someone purchases an automobile or lent one to drive by a friend or family member that later turns out to be stolen, the defendant may use “mistake of fact” as a defense, as they may have been unaware the car was stolen, and that the person arrested did not intend to “permanently” deprive the original owner of the vehicle. In that case, the defendant may be guilty of a lesser offense known as “Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation” if they can prove they were unaware that the means of transportation was stolen from another individual.
- Miranda Rights Violations – Because laws pertaining to Miranda Rights are stricter in Arizona than in other states, defense attorneys are sometimes able to dismiss all or portions of a case due to improper police procedure when someone is charged with theft of means of transportation.
- Coerced statements – Police may not trick or intimidate suspects into admitting to a crime, and if it is found that such actions occurred, an auto theft charge in Arizona could be dismissed.
- Denial of Right of Counsel – The police must provide a suspect with a private area and telephone, as well as a telephone book or list of attorneys with phone numbers as soon as the suspect requests an attorney. Refusal or failure to do any one of these things could result in a case dismissal.
- Police Errors – Police are human, and they do make mistakes. Poorly written or misleading police reports, mistaken identity and other errors can result in the dismissal of an auto theft case as well.
If you have been charged with Theft of Means of Transportation (Auto Theft) in Arizona then you will need to hire a strong defense attorney to help with your case. DM Cantor has success in defending these types of cases, see our case victories here. To schedule a Free Case Review with a Defense Lawyer, please call our offices at (602) 737-2812. Our phone is answered 24 hours a day and we can also be reached via our secure and confidential web form.