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Motor vehicle theft and why it’s a more severe crime

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Theft is a criminal offense, with the penalties dependent on the value of the items or money stolen. But what happens if the item stolen was a motor vehicle, like a car or truck?

In Missouri, motor vehicle theft is a graver offense than simple theft of possessions. Any motor vehicle theft, even a motorcycle, is a felony offense instead of a misdemeanor. Even if the vehicle stolen was secondhand, the offense remains a felony.

Why is motor vehicle theft a felony?

Motor vehicle theft is a felony due to the severity of the offense. The law considers the unauthorized taking or use of another person’s vehicle a serious violation of property rights that can result in substantial financial loss and personal distress for the victim.

Also, motor vehicle theft is often more complex and involves greater planning, risk and potential harm than many misdemeanor offenses. Felonies are usually more serious crimes, and motor vehicle theft falls into this category because it can also be associated with other criminal activities, such as organized crime or vehicle trafficking networks.

The penalties for motor vehicle theft

Stealing a motor vehicle is a class D felony. On conviction, a person faces up to seven years of imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.

However, if a person appropriates a motor vehicle and a court previously found them guilty of two separate theft offenses within 10 years of their latest vehicle theft, the offense instead becomes a class B felony. A person convicted of this offense faces up to 15 years of imprisonment.

The rights of the accused

If you’re accused of motor vehicle theft, it’s crucial to know your rights. You have the right to remain silent, to legal representation, and to a fair trial.

You can consult with a legal professional for your case. An attorney may be able to guide you through the complex court procedure, serve as your representative in the hearing and advise you of your defense. Motor vehicle theft may be more severe than regular simple theft, but you’re still entitled to basic rights.