In a recent study U.S. News highlighted the 10 worst cities for auto theft crimes in the United States.
No Texas city was included in the list which was headed by Albuquerque in New Mexico. The article speculated that some thieves are taking cars over the border to sell in Mexico.
In 2014, Insurance.com listed Odessa in Texas as one of the worst places for auto theft in the United States, citing National Insurance Crime Bureau’s figures.
Car theft declined markedly in recent years. A recent article in the New York Times said from 1990 to 2014, auto theft fell 96 percent in the Big Apple.
The fall is attributable to advances in technology such as immobilizer systems which means it’s impossible to start a car without an ignition key. Typically, older cars are much easier to steal.
Under Texas law it’s an offense to take any piece of property that does not belong to you without the consent of the owner. A car is no exception.
You commit theft if you take property without the intention to return it. You don’t have to keep the property. So, if a criminal steals a car to make a getaway and then abandons it, he can be charged with theft.
People who receive stolen property can also be charged with theft. Under Texas law, if you buy a car without a proper title, the law presumes you knew the car was stolen and can be convicted of theft. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 31.03).
Factors in the Severity of Punishment for Auto Theft
Thefts are classified according to the value and nature of the property stolen under the law of Texas. If you steal a new Lexus, you will receive a more severe penalty than if you stole a 2010 Honda.
In such cases, the prosecutor can rely on the fair market value of an automobile or its replacement value.
Joyriding in Texas
Joyriding is classified as operating a vehicle without the owner’ s consent. Unlike theft, the joyrider intends to return the vehicle.
There’s a wide spectrum in seriousness ranging from the child who takes his father’s car for an hour without permission to when strangers steal your car and drive it around at high speeds before returning it. The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
This article on Nolo highlights the difference between joyriding and stealing a car.
Carjacking is defined as taking a vehicle from the owner or driver by force or the threat of force. The owner can fear violence. In Texas, it’s prosecuted under the state’s robbery law.
Failing to Return a Rental Car
Under Texas’ theft law, failure to return a rental car is an offense when someone returns property subject to a rental agreement after the termination of the rental agreement and fails to pay the rental charge within 10 days after receiving notice demanding payment; or the defendant failed return the car.
The punishment for auto theft ranges from a fine of up to $500 to a long prison term. Typically, motor vehicle thefts are punishable by 180 days to 10 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000. Joyriding is a state jail felony. You receive a punishment of 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
As a robbery offense, carjacking is a second degree felony and carries a sentence of 20 years in prison and fines reaching $10,000.
If you have been charged with an auto theft crime, you can face a serious penalty, depending on the charge. Please call the Medlin Law Firm for experienced legal representation in Tarrant County. Call us today at (682) 204-4066.