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How Can Our Motor Vehicle Theft Attorneys in Minneapolis Help You?
Ordinary Auto Theft
Failure to Timely Return Rental Vehicle
Auto theft is one of the most serious felonies in Minnesota. As outlined below, this offense is much broader in the Gopher State than it is elsewhere. In fact, in Hennepin County, auto theft is actually an umbrella term for a number of different offenses.
At Gerald Miller, P.A., our team aggressively challenges the state’s evidence in these cases. This assertive stance usually helps us successfully resolve these cases before trial. Once we unveil the weaknesses in the state’s case, prosecutors are usually willing to enter into favorable plea bargain agreements. These agreements often include reduced charges or a lesser sentence.
Ordinary Auto Theft Defense
Since vehicle theft is a grand theft offense in Minnesota, it is always a felony, regardless of the property’s value.
Generally, taking property, including a motor vehicle, without the consent of the owner constitutes vehicle theft in Minnesota. Note that the person need not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property. That provision gives rise to some specific kinds of auto theft, which are outlined below.
Ask any reputed Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Auto Theft Lawyer, and they will tell you that lack of evidence is one of the most common defenses to vehicle theft charges. Evidentiary weaknesses usually include a lack of evidence placing the defendant at the scene or the lack of an owner’s testimony. Prosecutors normally rely on circumstantial evidence, such as eyewitness testimony to establish the taking. For various reasons, not all eyewitnesses are competent to testify in court.
Additionally, the vehicle’s owner must appear in court and offer testimony. Frequently, the trial occurs many months after the alleged theft. By that time, many owners have either lost interest in the case or relocated beyond the court’s subpoena power.
An affirmative defense, such as entrapment might be available as well. Local law enforcement agencies sometimes “bait” people with unlocked cars, unchained bicycles, and other tempting targets. If the defendant had no predisposition to commit the crime, such enticements might be illegal.
Prosecutors typically apply the robbery statute to these offenses. Carjacking is basically taking a car from a person by force. Simple carjacking usually involves either the threat of force or mild physical force, such as pushing the driver out of the car.
Simple carjacking, or simple robbery, is a very serious charge. However, there is a difference between auto theft and robbery. When carjacking is involved, you want to work with a Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Auto Theft Lawyer rather than a Robbery Defense Lawyer in Minneapolis. The maximum penalty is ten years in prison. Certain aggravating factors cause the penalty to increase significantly. These enhancements include:
- Use of a dangerous weapon (almost any object can be a “dangerous weapon”),
- Infliction of bodily harm (“bodily harm” essentially means any injury requiring first aid), and
- Falsely claiming that a weapon is involved (e.g. saying “get out of the car or I’ll shoot you” even though the defendant did not have a gun).
Once again, lack of evidence is often an effective defense, particularly to aggravated carjacking. Frequently, prosecutors rely on the alleged victim’s account of the carjacking to prove an aggravating factor. Observations made during periods of extreme stress are notoriously unreliable. Additionally, if the alleged victim’s trial testimony is different from statements made to police officers, the jury might disregard this testimony altogether.
In many states, joyriding is a lesser offense, since there is no intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. But in Minnesota, joyriding is a subset of auto theft. Legally, joyriding is taking another person’s car without the consent of the owner. Frequently, these infractions involve underage drivers who take a relative’s or friend’s care without permission.
Permission, or the lack thereof, is often the key element. Many times, owners leave their vehicles unlocked and the keys in an easily accessible area. Such actions could be construed as giving permission, especially if the owner has granted permission on a previous occasion.
Failure to Timely Return Rental Vehicle
There is no hard and fast rule as to when an overdue return becomes an auto theft matter. Technically, if the renter returns the vehicle one minute late. The rental company could press auto theft charges. The 10 percent rule is usually a better rule of thumb. For example, if the defendant rented a car for three days (seventy-two hours) and returned it more than seven hours late, vehicle theft charges might hold up in court.
Owners are more likely to press charges if the defendant did not communicate with the owner, returned a damaged car late, or had no legitimate excuse for the delay.
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