Theft From a Motor Vehicle


to top

Theft from a motor vehicle is a common crime in Philadelphia, but that does not mean you should take charges lightly. If convicted, you can be sentenced to months or years in prison. You also face consequences from having a theft offense on your criminal record.

These charges often result from misunderstandings and one-time mistakes, but you should work with an experienced defense attorney right away. A knowledgeable theft lawyer will know how to approach your specific situation and give you the best chance at securing a dismissal or acquittal.

If you have been arrested or accused of stealing from another person’s car or truck, contact Philadelphia theft attorney Michael Fienman today. With extensive experience defending people against theft accusations, Fienman Defense will explain your options and help you deal with charges the right way.

Call (215) 839-9529 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

What You Need to Know About Theft From a Motor Vehicle

Theft from a motor vehicle does not just apply to breaking a window and taking valuables from the backseat. It You can also face charges if the car was unlocked and you took something from the wrong vehicle.

Essentially, you can be charged with theft from a motor vehicle if you unlawfully take or try to take possession of, carry away, or exercise control over another person’s property from a vehicle, and you intend to deprive the owner of their property.

  • An unlawful taking means you do not have implicit or explicit permission to remove, take away, or control the property.
  • Movable property is any personal property you can exert control over and take away from the vehicle, such as money, medication, laptops, and car stereos.
  • Prosecutors do not need to prove you broke a window or stole the car keys to commit the theft. You can be charged with this crime if you take property from a vehicle you had access to through a friend, family member, or work.
  • This offense is not the same as stealing a motor vehicle or the unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Theft From a Motor Vehicle Is a Misdemeanor

Like other theft charges, the level of theft from a vehicle in Pennsylvania is based on the value taken:

  • Less than $50Third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $250 and $5,000 and up to 90 days of imprisonment.
  • Between $50 and $200Second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $500 and $5,000 and up to two years of imprisonment.
  • More than $200First-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $1,500 and $10,000 and up to five years of imprisonment.

A Third or Subsequent Offense Is a Felony

If you are charged with theft from a motor vehicle three or more times within a five-year period, regardless of the value or grade of the offenses, the prosecutor will charge you with a third-degree felony.

If convicted, you can be sentenced to up to seven years of imprisonment and fined between $2,500 and $15,000.

What to Do if You Are Charged

Many arrests for theft from a vehicle occur when officers search the area where a car break-in happened. You may have just been in the vicinity, but if a police officer arrests you, do not get angry, argue with the officer, or try to run away. The time to prove your innocence is not at your arrest. You will have your say in court after you retain a lawyer.

Once you are arrested, you will be booked into jail. You may have to spend the night before you are released. You should not discuss the incident or answer the police officer’s questions. Instead, clearly state you want a lawyer.

You may be released on your own recognizance, or you may have to post bail. There may be conditions of bail you have to adhere to, such as not committing any other crimes, not using drugs or alcohol, and not traveling.

What a PA Theft Lawyer Can Do

Once you hire a defense attorney, they will scrutinize the facts of your case and look for weaknesses that support your defense.

  • Your lawyer will challenge the value of the property and grade of the offense.
  • Your lawyer will attempt to have certain evidence excluded.
  • Your lawyer will attempt to discredit any evidence that supports a conviction.
  • Your lawyer will call into question the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses.
  • Your lawyer will attempt to create reasonable doubt.
  • Your lawyer will work to secure a positive outcome and mitigate any negative consequences.

How Fienman Defense Will Help

Once you are charged, the prosecutor will focus on convicting you. Even if you avoid time in custody, a theft conviction will follow you forever. The best way to defend yourself is to work with a highly experienced Philadelphia defense attorney. With an excellent track record in defending theft cases, attorney Fienman will thoroughly review your case, explain your rights and options, and mount a strong defense.

The best course of action in your case will depend on your exact circumstances. Potential defenses to charges for theft from a motor vehicle include:

  • Mistaken identify – You did not commit the crime.
  • False accusations – Someone claims you committed a crime that did not occur.
  • Consent – You reasonably believed you had permission from the property owner to move or take the property.
  • Mistake – You took property you reasonably believed you had a right to control.

If the prosecution as a strong case, your attorney can also negotiate a plea agreement to minimize the typical harm that comes with a conviction. There are various diversion options in Pennsylvania for first time theft offenses and other avenues that could lead to a dismissal and eventual expungement . We will discuss all your options, as well as the odds of effectively pursuing a dismissal or acquittal at trial if necessary.

Pennsylvania Theft From a Motor Vehicle Law

Theft from a motor vehicle is defined under Title 18, Chapter 39, Section 3934 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code.

Questions? Contact us today.

Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to show that the charges should be dismissed. If it’s in your best interest, we will work to negotiate a lesser sentence. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.