Atlantic City Vehicle Theft Defense Lawyer
All types of theft are taken seriously by the authorities, but thefts involving motor vehicles are taken especially seriously. Many people rely on their car to get around to work, see their family, and conduct everyday business, and if it is stolen, they can be put in a very bad spot. As such, police and prosecutors will devote many resources to investigate vehicle theft cases and achieve an arrest and a conviction. Such a conviction can come with extremely harsh penalties, including long jail sentences and hefty fines.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Atlantic City vehicle theft defense lawyers have years of experience successfully fighting for our clients who are facing this charge. We will leave no stone unturned in working to prove your innocence, and will do everything in our power to bring your case to the best possible resolution. In addition, we will be here throughout this complicated process to guide you through each step and answer any questions you may have. For a free consultation, call us today at (609) 616-4956.
Understanding Vehicle Theft Crimes
There is not a specific section of the code for the crime of vehicle theft in Atlantic City, NJ. Rather, the crime is charged under the statute for theft by unlawful taking of movable property. In order to be found guilty of this crime, the prosecution will first need to prove that you knowingly took or exercised control over movable property, such as a vehicle, without asking. The prosecution will also need to prove that the vehicle did indeed belong to another person and that you took it with the intent to deprive the other person of their property.
Note that if additional circumstances are present, a different charge may apply. For example, if you steal something out of the car, like an expensive radio, after you have stolen the vehicle, you can possibly be charged with burglary. If, during the course of the theft, you attempt to unlawfully take a motor vehicle by using force on a person in the vehicle, threatening bodily injury to a person in the vehicle, threatening to commit a felony, or operating the vehicle while the original occupant remains in the vehicle, you can be charged with the more serious crime of carjacking.
Penalties for Vehicle Theft in Atlantic City
If you are arrested for theft by unlawful taking of moveable property in Atlantic City, and the property is a vehicle, you will be charged with a third-degree indictable offense. An indictable offense is New Jersey’s version of a felony. A third-degree crime is punishable by a term of 3 to 5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000. If the charge is carjacking instead, it will be a first-degree indictable offense punishable by up to 20, but no less than 5, years in jail and fines up to $200,000.
If the vehicle is damaged or destroyed, you will likely be required to pay restitution as well. Furthermore, a separate section of the code lays out additional penalties that apply for theft by unlawful taking when the theft involves a vehicle. For a first offense, you will be fined an additional $500 and have your license suspended for a year. If you are convicted of a second offense, you will be fined an additional $750 and your license will be suspended for 2 years. For a third or subsequent offense, you will be fined $1,000 and have your license suspended for 10 years.
How a Vehicle Theft Case Works in Atlantic City
After you are arrested, you will be transported to the police station to be booked. The booking process involves your biographical information being collected as well as you being fingerprinted and photographed for police records. Then, you will be held in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail until your bail hearing is held.
At the bail hearing, the judge will decide whether you can be released or whether you must remain in jail until the case is resolved. Since New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of cash bail in 2017, this will be decided based on the judge’s analysis of a series of holistic factors, including your criminal record, ties to the community, the nature and severity of the crime, and whether you might present a flight risk. Sometimes, the judge can impose conditions on your bail like attending counseling or staying out of trouble. Our skilled bail hearing attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych know how to make the best arguments to get you released with as few conditions as possible.
After this, because vehicle theft is an indictable offense, the prosecutor will present the case to a grand jury, who will listen to witnesses and assess the evidence to decide if there is enough there to issue an indictment and move the case forward. If they decide to indict, you will be arraigned in the superior court, where your charges will be read and you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. A skilled criminal defense attorney like those at our firm will likely advise to plead not guilty while we request discovery, assess the case, and attempt to negotiate with the prosecutor.
A plea deal might involve the prosecutor downgrading your charge to something less serious or recommending a more lenient sentence in exchange for you pleading guilty. If you do not wish to take a deal, our attorneys are always ready and able to fight for your innocence at trial. For an indictable offense like vehicle theft, you are entitled to a trial by jury, but can choose a bench trial in front of a judge instead if you and your lawyer believe that could be a more beneficial setting to obtain a not guilty verdict.
Call Our Experienced Atlantic City Vehicle Defense Attorneys Today
Vehicle theft is a serious crime that can result in severe penalties, including very lengthy jail sentences in some cases. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Atlantic City vehicle theft defense attorneys know how frightening being charged with this crime can be and we will be there fighting for you every step of the way. We will work to get your charges downgraded or dismissed and bring the case to a satisfying resolution. For a free consultation, call our firm at (609) 616-4956 today.