Vehicle theft can lead to multiple criminal charges

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, automobile theft rates across America have steadily increased. Although the country is slowly recovering from the pandemic, vehicle theft numbers have remained high.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were so many stolen motor vehicles last year that for 2022, it was as if an automobile was stolen every 32 seconds.

Vehicle theft is a crime which can lead to harsh penalties. In Alabama, the penalties can be especially heavy since the state can hand out multiple charges to violators that result in combined punishments.

Unauthorized vehicle use

Per Alabama law, it’s against the law to use a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent, and violators can be charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle. The criminal charge is a Class A misdemeanor, and a person must serve a year in prison on conviction. However, if the person uses force or threat of force to take control of a vehicle from the owner, the offense instead becomes a Class B felony. A Class B felony conviction leads to up to 20 years in prison.

Breaking and entering

There’s also a separate criminal charge for unlawful breaking and entering a vehicle. A person commits a violation if they break into and enter the vehicle of another person with the intent to commit any felony or theft. This is a Class C felony that carries a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Motor vehicle theft

Officials can also separately charge a person with theft of a motor vehicle. The offense is a Class B felony. This is notable, as the penalties for motor vehicle theft are the same for first-degree property theft (theft involving items worth more than $2,500), regardless of how much the stolen vehicle was worth.

In summary, stealing a vehicle in Alabama will result in multiple criminal charges. These charges result in decades of prison time on conviction and a litany of felonies on the person’s criminal record. People facing these charges shouldn’t take their court hearing lightly because their potential punishments can quickly add up.