Arizona Car Theft Laws: Penalties and Consequences

arizona car theft lawsEverybody knows that stealing a car is a serious criminal offense. But just how serious is it in Arizona? The state has very specific auto theft laws that stipulate the specifics of the crime, the punishment and the aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

Arizona Auto Theft Laws: An Overview

There are two primary statutes that address car theft in Arizona – A.R.S. 13-1814 and A.R.S. 13-1813.

In Arizona, the crime is officially called a theft of means of transportation. More specifically, a theft of means of transportation is taking a person’s vehicle without their permission. Under the legal definition, means of transportation refers to any kind of vehicle.

You are committing vehicle theft whenever you:

  • Take control of somebody else’s vehicle to deprive the owner permanently from their means of transportation
  • Convert the vehicle for another use while it has been entrusted to you
  • Use material misrepresentation to take control of somebody else’s means of transportation (lie, fraud)
  • Take control of a vehicle when you have knowledge or you have reasons to believe that it has been stolen

Apart from the standard situation in which you take somebody else’s car without their permission, Arizona also recognizes another type of related crime called theft by not returning a vehicle in default.

If you are leasing a car and you fail to make payments or return the vehicle within the contractually-specified time period, you will be committing theft. Unlawful failure to return a motor vehicle subject to a security interest occurs if you do not make a payment or return the vehicle within 90 days of the term. This is when the owner can report the vehicle as stolen.

There’s a final related crime category called unlawful use of means of transportation. This crime is commonly called joyriding and it refers to using or driving a stolen or misappropriated vehicle.

Penalties for Automobile Theft

Automobile theft in Arizona is a Class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies for first-time offenders carry a prison sentence ranging from two to seven years. Depending on the circumstances, however, a first-time offender could receive probation with no jail or a reduced sentence of one year in prison (if the defense could establish mitigating circumstances).

Second-time and repeat offenders face much graver consequences. The prison sentence for a second-time offender ranges from 3.5 to 16.25 years and for a third-time offender – from 7.5 to 25 years.

Failure to return leased means of transportation on time or make a payment is a Class 5 felony. It is punishable by anywhere between six months and two years in prison.

Unlawful use of means of transportation carries the smallest sentence. It is a Class 6 felony.

Click here for information on conviction set aside in Arizona.

Defense Scenarios

In most instances, car theft is a very serious criminal offense. It carries prison time and it also leads to the creation of a criminal record that could have long-term consequences.

A good Arizona criminal defense attorney will craft a solid strategy based on evidence and procedural violations. There are several possible defense scenarios in the case of theft of means of transportation.

One of the easiest defense strategies would be to prove that the owner of their vehicle consented to the use. Lack of knowledge is another viable defense scenario.

In Arizona, there is a specific reporting procedure whenever a vehicle is stolen. The owner will have to produce an affidavit attesting to the facts of the crime. The affidavit should be taken in person by a police officer or a notarized affidavit can be mailed to court. Whenever the procedure hasn’t been followed, the defense attorney could challenge the charges on the grounds of improper reporting to law enforcement professionals.

Click here for an article on Arizona auto theft laws.