Vehicle theft is an interesting subject under Minnesota law, because certain factors at the time of the theft will dictate how the criminal charges will be levied against the perpetrator. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at how vehicle theft is handled in Minnesota, and we explain how you can fight a motor vehicle theft charge.
General Theft Vs. Motor Vehicle Theft
In many cases, motor vehicle theft actually falls under Minnesota’s laws covering general theft. Motor vehicle theft is described in the state’s general theft law as the action of “taking or driving a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or 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 means if you take your parent’s car without permission, you borrow you buddy’s car without permission or you fail to return your rental vehicle, you can face motor vehicle theft charges.
In most cases, motor vehicle theft is punishable as a felony level offense under the general theft guidelines, because the value of the stolen property is often worth more than $1,000. This is punishable by significant fines and potentially more than a year in jail.
You can also face charges if you steal gasoline for your car. If you steal fuel or intentionally leave the station without paying for fuel, you can face motor vehicle theft charges. The gas station must prove that you intended to steal the fuel as opposed to forgetting to pay, and charges may be dropped if you pay the retailer back for what you owe within 30 days of the incident.
Motor vehicle theft charges can be upgraded to carjacking charges if the owner of the vehicle is present at the time you take their property. Carjacking is charged as simple or aggravated robbery based on the circumstances of the incident. A simple robbery charge can carry up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000, and those penalties can be enhanced if certain aggravating factors are present. Aggravating factors include:
- Using a dangerous weapon during the robbery
- Using any item that the victim could reasonably believe is a dangerous weapon
- Inflicting bodily harm
- Implying to the victim that a dangerous weapon is present
If you imply that you have a dangerous weapon at the time of the carjacking, you can face penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $30,000. If other aggravating factors are present, potential penalties can balloon up to 20 years in prison and up to $35,000 in fines.
So if you or someone you know got mixed up in a situation and ended up facing motor vehicle theft or carjacking charges, make sure that you reach out to the experienced lawyers at Appelman Law Firm to determine your best route for beating these charges. We offer a free case analysis session where you can sit down with a lawyer and go over all your options. To set up that meeting, give us a call at (952) 224-2277.