Charges for theft of a motor vehicle – often called “grand theft auto” – are among the most serious criminal charges you can face. Many times, carjacking is considered a violent crime if you take the car from the victim directly, or theft of a motor vehicle can be purely a property crime. The specifics of how the alleged theft occurred may increase or decrease the potential penalties you face, but you could be looking at long jail time and substantial fines in any case.
For help with your motor vehicle theft charges, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras today. Our Baltimore motor vehicle theft defense lawyers may be able to help you with your charges by fighting to get the case against you dropped or dismissed and fighting to lower any penalties you might face. For a free legal consultation on your case, call us today at (410) 694-7291.
Theft of a Motor Vehicle (Grand Theft Auto) Under Md. Code § 7-105
Charges for theft, in general, are usually filed under § 7-104 of the Maryland Code’s Criminal Law Article. These charges are not specific to the type of money or property stolen and can be filed for any theft case. In addition, there is a statute under § 7-105 specifically used to punish theft of a motor vehicle. The penalties for these crimes differ, and prosecutors may try to make your case easier or harder by charging you under different sections of the code – or charging multiple offenses.
Under § 7-105, it is illegal to steal any motor vehicle. A “motor vehicle,” for purposes of this statute, includes any self-propelled vehicle except for mopeds, motor scooters, or electric bikes. This means that cars, trucks, and motorcycles are vehicles subject to this statute, but an electric scooter or similar vehicles should not be included, and theft of those items should be charged under a different statute.
Section 7-105 more explicitly defines theft, in this case, to mean any unauthorized taking of a vehicle. This means that borrowing someone’s car without their consent or taking someone’s car with the intent to have a joyride and return it later are still considered motor vehicle theft. Because of this, these charges can sometimes have murky issues involving who holds title to the car or whether the owner gave the driver permission to use their car.
Penalties for Theft of a Motor Vehicle in Maryland
Motor vehicle theft under § 7-105 is a felony offense. A felony is typically a crime that carries the potential of more than a year in prison, as opposed to a misdemeanor which carries up to a year in jail. However, Maryland law often authorizes more than a year in jail for misdemeanor offenses as well, so these definitions are not always helpful in defining how severe the penalties are in your case.
With charges for motor vehicle theft, you could face up to 5 years in jail and a fine up to $5,000. On top of this, you will be required to return the vehicle to its owner. If you cannot return the vehicle, you will instead be ordered to pay the victim the full value of the car.
Because theft of a motor vehicle would still qualify under all of the definitions in the general theft statute (§ 7-104) you could also be charged under that statute for the same crime, potentially leading to higher penalties. That statute organizes penalties based on the value of the property stolen, and the penalties under the motor vehicle theft statute (§ 7-105) are higher than the general theft provision (§ 7-104) – but only for theft under $1,500. You could face higher penalties for theft of a vehicle worth $1,500 or more if you are charged under the general theft statute:
- Up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for a vehicle $1,500 or more but under $25,000
- Up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $15,000 for a vehicle $25,000 or more but under $100,000
- Up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000 in the rare chance that the car was worth $100,000 or more
These penalties cannot stack with motor vehicle theft, and you will only face penalties for one crime.
If the car was stolen by force or threat of violence – such as a carjacking at gunpoint – you will typically be charged with robbery (§ 3-402), robbery with a dangerous weapon (§ 3-403), or carjacking (§ 3-405) as well. These penalties often involve up to 10, 20, or 30 years in prison, respectively, and can stack with the penalties for motor vehicle theft.
Ultimately, the sentencing judge gets to decide your final penalties. Many of these charges have sentencing maximums, which means that the judge decides where under that range your final sentence will fall. In some cases, the judge may be willing to grant you probation instead of jail time, especially if you do not have a criminal record or the case was based on a technicality or misunderstanding.
Call Our Baltimore Motor Vehicle Theft Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
If you are facing potential charges for theft of a motor vehicle under Md. Code, Criminal Law § 7-105, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras today. Our Baltimore motor vehicle theft defense lawyers may be able to take your case and fight to reduce penalties by having the charges changed or fighting the case at trial to get the charges dropped and dismissed. For a free legal consultation on your charges, call us today at (410) 694-7291.