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What are New Jersey’s auto theft laws?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Like other states, New Jersey has laws surrounding the theft of a vehicle. An arrest for this type of crime often carries substantial penalties.

Auto theft in New Jersey

New Jersey doesn’t have separate laws specifically pertaining to auto theft. Stealing a car falls under the state’s general theft laws. Sometimes, the penalties depend on the value of the stolen vehicle.

Certain offenses are taken more seriously. For example, if a person leads an auto theft trafficking network, it’s punished more severely than a crime like juvenile joyriding. Additionally, unlike an offense such as petit theft, for lesser auto theft crimes, there are heftier penalties in comparison.

Carjacking is a serious auto theft crime that is punished severely if the perpetrator inflicts bodily injury, uses force against the person in the vehicle or threatens the victim with imminent bodily harm. It also carries severe penalties when the individual commits or threatens another crime against the victim or drives with a victim inside of the vehicle or forces them to drive while in the car with them.

Depending on the specific crime, a conviction could result in anywhere from up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 or 10 to 30 years in prison with a minimum period of ineligibility for parole for five years.

Defending against auto theft charges

Mistake of fact is a common defense for auto theft. It argues that the defendant didn’t know the vehicle was stolen.

Consent is a defense used to state that the owner gave permission to use the vehicle but confusion arose due to the events that occurred during the time.

A common defense for joyriding is that the use of the vehicle was temporary and not permanent to deprive the owner of it. This defense is known as lack of intent.