If you have played a video game in the last 20 years, then you’re probably familiar with Grand Theft Auto. It has been through multiple iterations and offers a number of expansion packs, and can be played on multiple devices – a dream come true for anyone who secretly dreams of working their way up the ladder of a criminal syndicate while getting orders from A- and B-list celebrities.
Living out these fantasies via a video game system may be fun, but auto theft and its associated crimes are taken very seriously by local, state, and federal law enforcement. Anyone accused of a Tennessee vehicle crime needs to be represented by an experienced strong criminal defense lawyer. Convictions for car crimes often result in prison sentences, large fines, and criminal records. Felony convictions can mean the loss of voting rights and the right to own a firearm. Convictions can make it hard to rent an apartment or find a new job.
Motor vehicle theft in Tennessee
Anyone can be charged with a theft crime if they “knowingly obtain or exercise control over the property without the owner’s effective consent” – and with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Property includes cars and any other type of vehicle. Tennessee’s theft laws apply to the people who steal the car and to people who buy cars (or car parts) knowing that the car (or car parts) were stolen.
The penalties for vehicle theft are based on the value of the car or vehicle:
- The value of the vehicle is $1,000 or less. This is a Class A misdemeanor. Possible jail time and fines are up to 11 months/29 days and up to $2,500 in fines.
- The value of the vehicle is between $1,000 and $2,500. This is a Class E felony. Possible jail time and fines are up to six years and a $3,000 fine.
- The value of the vehicle is between $2,500 and $10,000. This is a Class D felony. misdemeanor. Possible jail time and fines are 2 to 12 years and up to $5,000 in fines.
- The value of the vehicle is between $10,000 and $60,000. This is a Class C felony. Possible jail time and fines are up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine.
- The value of the vehicle is between $60,000 and $250,000. This is a Class B misdemeanor. Possible jail time and fines are 8 to 30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Tennessee carjacking crimes
Tennessee defines carjacking as “the intentional or knowing taking of a motor vehicle from the possession of another by use of a deadly weapon or force or intimidation”
For example, if you use a gun to force someone to turn over the keys to their car, you will almost certainly be charged with carjacking.
Carjacking is a Class B felony. The penalties for a class B felony in Tennessee are:
- Between 8 and 30 years incarceration
- Fines up to $25,000 – unless Tennessee statutes provide otherwise
What is joyriding?
Tennessee makes joyriding illegal. Joyriding involves taking “another’s automobile, airplane, motorcycle, bicycle, boat or other vehicle without the consent of the owner.” The accused does not have to intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. If the owner did intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently – then the accused would be charged with motor vehicle theft. An example of joyriding is when a neighbor or a vehicle attendant drives your car because he/she likes your car. After they ride around the block or the neighborhood, the neighbor or attendant returns the car.
Joyriding is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class A misdemeanor are up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
More Tennessee car crimes
Other Tennessee crimes involving automobiles include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Vehicular homicide, the reckless killing another person while using your automobile.
- Crimes involving breaking and entering into a vehicle to steal a computer, a cellphone, or anything of value inside the car may result in a burglary charge.
Possible defenses to car theft criminal offenses
There are several key issues that defense lawyers assert on behalf of defendants charged with car crimes:
- The defendant did have permission to use the car or other vehicle.
- The defendant intended to return the vehicle which means the crime charged should be joyriding and not theft.
- The value of the vehicle is much less than the prosecution claims, which means a lower-level offense should apply.
- The police failed to respect a defendant’s US constitutional rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures, to incriminate themselves, to cross-examine witnesses, and many other defenses.
- That the prosecution can’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If juveniles are involved in a car theft crime, skilled criminal defense lawyers argue that the juvenile should be tried in juvenile court and not in adult court.
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our Franklin criminal defense lawyer fights aggressively to suppress evidence against you that is illegally obtained. We fight to obtain dismissals when it’s clear the prosecution can’t factually or legally prove its claim. We often negotiate plea bargains to lesser offenses which carry less severe penalties. When necessary, we defend your rights before a jury. We also pursue alternatives to prosecution or prison time when defendants don’t have a prior criminal record and no weapon was involved.
If you’ve been arrested for any type of car theft crime, your freedom is at risk. Call our office at 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We fight for defendants charged with misdemeanors or felony crimes in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood Tennessee.