If you live in Minneapolis, you’ve probably heard about the recent rise in auto thefts. From March 1 to April 22, over three dozen cars were reported as stolen.
Older Hondas have been targeted in particular, and police in Robbinsdale are clearly on alert, having recently arrested a man who was suspected to be in a stolen car. No charges have been pressed against him, but the case is not closed yet.
Once someone has been found guilty of auto theft, what happens? There are many different theft charges that defendants can face, and motor vehicle theft falls under the laws covering general theft charges.
However, auto theft has little in common with shoplifting. Learn the difference between the different auto theft charges and what could happen next if you are charged.
Minnesota Felony Motor Vehicle Theft Charges
As mentioned above, Minnesota’s definition of motor vehicle theft can be found within the laws describing general theft. Motor vehicle theft occurs when a person “takes or drives a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner, knowing or having reason to know that the owner or an authorized agent of the owner did not give consent.”
This charge includes failing to return a rental car.
You can also face similar charges for simply stealing the fuel for a car. If someone steals fuel, or leaves a fuel station without paying full price for their fuel, they could face motor fuel theft charges. In order to be convicted for motor fuel theft, prosecutors will have to prove that the defendant had the intention to steal fuel (as opposed to leaving a gas station thinking they had paid for their fuel).
This charge can be dropped if the driver pays the fuel retailer back within 30 days of the incident. Additionally, if the retailer files a claim asking for compensation, the defendant may only face monetary penalties instead of criminal charges.
If someone is convicted of motor vehicle theft or motor fuel theft, penalties include up to five years in prison and up to $10,000.
Carjacking in Minnesota
Thankfully, most of the recent auto thefts in the Minneapolis area were committed without the owner of the vehicle present. However, if any of the drivers were present during the theft, the charges change from a theft charge to a carjacking charge.
“Carjacking” is charged as either a simple or aggravated robbery, and the penalties for are the same as any other robbery. What are those penalties?
If someone is found guilty of simple robbery, they face up to 10 years behind bars and up to $20,000 in fines.
Aggravating factors may increase the charges and the penalties for this type of crime. These factors include:
- Using a dangerous weapon during the robbery
- Using any item that the victim believes is a dangerous weapon
- Inflicting bodily harm on another
- Implying to the victim that a dangerous weapon is present
Simply implying the presence of a dangerous weapon may result in up to 15 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines. If any of the more serious aggravating factors are present during the carjacking, the offender could face up to 20 years behind bars and up to $35,000 in fines.
Carjacking, like motor vehicle theft, is a felony offense. Penalties for felons include the loss of the right to vote while incarcerated or the loss of the right to possess a weapon during and after incarceration.
Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Tampering Charges in Minnesota
Not all auto theft charges are this serious. Simply tampering with a vehicle without the owner’s permission is a crime under Minnesota law.
Accomplices to an auto theft crime may also face misdemeanor charges. Anyone who is caught riding in a stolen vehicle, even if they did not physically steal the vehicle themselves, may face charges. Of course, prosecutors will have to prove that the defendant knew that the vehicle was stolen in order to get a guilty verdict.
Penalties for a misdemeanor will not exceed one year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.
Something important to remember is that misdemeanor charges may turn into felony charges if an offender has past auto theft charges. Do not let your friend’s idea to steal a car or a misunderstanding at the gas station put you behind bars for over a year. There are ways to fight auto theft charges in Minnesota — start building your defense today to give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).