Lawyers for Defending Possession of Stolen Vehicle Charges

In Michigan, crimes of stealing or possessing stolen vehicles are considered serious by law enforcement. With a great lawyer, there is a defense to every charge.

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Penalties and Defenses to Possession of Stolen Vehicle Charges

Prosecutors and police zealously charge and prosecute crimes involving automobiles in Michigan. Because of law enforcement’s intense focus on these offenses, defendants are frequently wrongfully charged or overcharged. Even when everything seems hopeless, these cases are often defensible with an experienced Possession of Stolen Vehicle defense attorney.

The person who stole a vehicle is punished for stealing. The person who accepts, purchases, or possesses the vehicle, knowing or having reason to know it is stolen, is punished too, sometimes more harshly than the person who stole it. If someone did not know that a vehicle or other property was stolen, they are not guilty of any crime.

The “receiving and concealing” law was enacted to deter people from stealing things. In theory, if a person cannot sell what they allegedly stole, there is no motive to steal it in the first place. History has shown that this strategy has had little success, and prosecutors request longer and harsher sentences to deter these crimes.

A person who is a dealer or collector of merchandise who fails to inquire of the seller if the property is stolen or embezzled is presumed by law to have known the property was stolen. The same rule applies to anyone who buys the property, including vehicles with a registration or serial number scratched off.

Defense Attorney for Possession of Stolen Vehicle

Penalties for Possession of a Stolen Vehicle

Michigan law makes it illegal to possess property the receiver knew or had reason to know was stolen. The same rules apply to motor vehicles and electronics, jewelry, or other property.

  • Property value over $20,000: 10 years prison, up to 5 years of probation, and a $15,000 fine;
  • Property value between $1,000 and $20,000: 5 years prison, up to 5 years of probation, and/or $10,000 fine;
  • Property value between $200 and $1,000: 1-year jail, up to 2 years of probation, and/or $2,000 fine;
  • Property value under $200: 93 days in jail, up to 2 years of probation, and a $500 fine.

The listed fine amounts are the minimum a defendant will face. The statute says that the fine will equal the listed amount or three times the stolen vehicle’s value, whichever is greater. Furthermore, if a person receives stolen property several times over a 12-month period, each transaction can be added to a total (aggregated) to determine the value amount and which crime level is charged.

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Prosecution of Stolen Vehicle Cases

In stolen personal property cases such as electronics, jewelry, and other generic items, it often is difficult for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen unless there is a confession. Similarly, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knew or should have known the vehicle was stolen beyond a reasonable doubt. Evidence of guilt may consist of various things:

  • a price far below the accepted fair market value;
  • scratched off or removed serial or registration numbers and VIN tags;
  • failure to register the vehicle in a timely manner (or ever);
  • quick resale to a third party without interim registration (ghost middleman sale);
  • immediate dismantling of the vehicle and resale of the parts without first registering the vehicle (chop-shop activities);
  • no receipt for the transaction;
  • cash transaction (no paper trail);
  • a buyer’s admission that they did not ask the seller if he had the legal right to sell the vehicle;
  • broken and “hot-wired” ignition port on the steering column.

If you face accusations of Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, do not talk to anyone or do anything before consulting with a top defense attorney.

Defenses to Possession of Stolen Vehicle Charges

Lack of Proof that the Vehicle was Stolen

To prove a vehicle was stolen, the prosecutor must first prove someone owned it. Vehicle ownership is the first target of a defense attorney. Can it be shown the vehicle was not owned by the person who claimed it was stolen? Many defense attorneys don’t even consider this issue. They assume the prosecutor would never charge a case where they could not prove who owned the vehicle. But it does happen, and the best attorneys would never miss this first possible challenge to a prosecution.

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Lack of Knowledge that the Vehicle was Stolen

  • One of the most potent defenses used by top criminal defense lawyers is that the defendant was an innocent purchaser or receiver, meaning their client did not know the motor vehicle was stolen. If someone is charged, the prosecutor must believe that they have the evidence to prove the defendant knew or should have known it was stolen. Whatever evidence the prosecutor thinks he has, a defense attorney must be able to explain it, if possible, legitimately and logically.
  • Sometimes, innocent people are scammed and are sold a car that was stolen. In these cases, the receiver honestly did not know it was stolen. Fake registration documents can be made up easily on computers today, and it is no wonder thieves can trick innocent buyers.
  • If payment for a vehicle was made by check, this is a good defense, as anyone wanting to conceal a crime would not want to have a paper trail.
  • Price is always something prosecutors closely examine. If the purchase price is far below the accepted fair market value, that is a red flag. However, many sales do not reflect the fair market value because buyers may be desperate to raise money. An astute defense attorney will be on the lookout for possible reasons a person may have sold a vehicle for a considerable discount.
  • Failure to register a vehicle may be due to an inability to afford the registration fee and insurance. Failure to register is also a crime, but it isn’t a felony.

Lack of Intent to Keep the Vehicle

An often effective defense is that the person found in possession of a stolen vehicle temporarily borrowed the vehicle from someone else. Misunderstandings happen occasionally, and a person may mistakenly believe their car was stolen when, in fact, it was just being borrowed. A defendant’s best hope of persuading a prosecutor to dismiss charges based on a lack of intent or misunderstanding is with a credible, reputable Possession of Stolen Vehicle defense attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the penalty for grand theft auto in Michigan?

Theft of a vehicle valued at $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Stealing a vehicle worth more than $20,000 can result in a ten-year prison sentence.

Misdemeanor penalties apply to automobiles worth less than $1,000. A judge can order up to a year of imprisonment. If the defendant has been convicted of larceny before, the penalty can be increased to a five-year felony sentence.

What is the charge for stealing a car in Michigan?

The charge for sealing a car in Michigan is called “Larceny of a Motor Vehicle.”

What are the essential elements of larceny of a motor vehicle?

A prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant took another person’s vehicle without permission and with the intent to deprive the owner of their vehicle permanently.

Is Grand Theft Auto a felony in Michigan?

Grand Theft Auto, known as Larceny of a Motor Vehicle, is a felony if the vehicle’s value is greater than $1,000.00. Otherwise, the charge is a misdemeanor.

What is the penalty for stealing a car in Michigan?

If the vehicle is worth more than $1,000.00 (or the defendant has a prior conviction), the maximum prison sentence is 5 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Is receiving stolen property a felony in Michigan?

Yes, receiving stolen property, including a vehicle, is a felony in Michigan, if the property’s value is greater than a predetermined amount.

What is a Michigan UDAA charge?

Michigan Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile (UDAA) is taking possession of and driving away a motor vehicle belonging to another without authority, but without intent to steal, is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

What is the felony theft amount in Michigan?

In most cases, theft offenses involving property with a value of $1,000.00 or less are misdemeanors. Crimes involving more than $1,000.00 are felony offenses.

What happens to you if you steal a car?

If you are accused of stealing a car or possessing a stolen vehicle, it is essential that you hire legal counsel right away. Whatever you do, do not talk to the police about the situation, try to explain your side of the story, or say anything else without an attorney. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has represented thousands of clients on theft-related offenses. We have an unparalleled track record of helping clients avoid charges, convictions, and jail.

What counts as stealing a car?

Taking a car without permission counts as stealing. The charge is more severe if there is evidence the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, instead of taking the car temporarily or for a joy ride.

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Experienced and Proficient Defense Lawyers

The dedicated, experienced, and zealous Possession of Stolen Vehicle defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges, like Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties and throughout Michigan. If you are under suspicion for any offense, we can work with you to build a defense or lessen any punishment imposed by a court. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive, effective representation.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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