Fort Worth Auto Theft Attorney | Stolen Cars in North Texas
Motor vehicle theft is on the rise in Fort Worth, where the number of stolen cars has increased by 33.7 percent from the same period last year. According to Fort Worth Police Department’s 2023 2nd Quarter Crime Report, there were 1052 motor vehicle thefts from April to June, compared to 766 during the same three months in 2022.
Whenever there is an increase in a specific crime, law enforcement will intensify their efforts to address and combat the problem. Prosecutors often follow suit by trying to make an example out of defendants in an effort to deter others from committing the same crime.
That’s why it’s extremely important if you or a loved one has been arrested for a Fort Worth auto theft to contact an experienced vehicle theft attorney. At Varghese Summersett, we have vast experience defending vehicle theft cases in the Fort Worth-North Texas region.
In this article, we explain the law, potential penalties, defense strategies, and the significance of securing a top-tier criminal defense lawyer if you or a loved one is facing Fort Worth auto theft charges.
Understanding Texas Vehicle Theft Laws
In Texas, there is not a specific statute that specifically addresses auto theft. Instead, the offense is covered under the general theft statute in Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code.
Under this statute, a person commits theft – including Fort Worth auto theft – if he or she unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Property is unlawfully appropriated if it is:
- taken without the actual owner’s explicit consent;
- stolen property and the actor knows it’s stolen but takes it anyway; or
- stolen property in the custody of law enforcement and the actor takes it knowing it was stolen by another.
In layman’s terms, if you take something that isn’t yours with no intention of giving it back – including a motor vehicle – you are committing theft in Texas.
Penalties for Vehicle Theft in Texas
The punishment for vehicle theft in Texas depends on the amount of the stolen car. For example, if the car is worth $50,000, it is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Here’s a breakdown of the possible consequences based on theft value:
|Stolen Amount||Offense Classification||Penalty|
|Less than $100||Class C misdemeanor||Fine up to $500|
|$100 to $749||Class B misdemeanor||Up to 180 days in jail & $2,000 fine|
|$750 to $2,499||Class A misdemeanor||Up to 1 year in jail & $4,000 fine|
|$2,500 to $29,999||State jail felony||180 days to 2 years in jail & $10,000 fine|
|$30,000 to $149,999||Third-degree felony||2 to 10 years in prison & $10,000 fine|
|$150,000 to $299,999||Second-degree felony||2 to 20 years in prison & $10,000 fine|
|$300,000 or more||First-degree felony||5 to 99 years in prison & $10,000 fine|
In addition to possible jail time and fines, a conviction can lead to secondary repercussions like a blemished record and challenges getting a job, housing or a loan. If you have been accused of stealing a car in Fort Worth, it’s crucial to contact an experienced Fort Worth auto theft lawyer with a proven record of success.
The Difference between Auto Theft from UUMV
While they might seem similar, vehicle theft and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle (UUMV) are different. Vehicle theft occurs when someone takes a vehicle and has no intention of returning it; UUMV occurs when someone takes a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
For instance, UUMV situations often arise when, say, a teenager takes their parent’s car without permission. UUMV is categorized under Section 31.07 of the Texas Penal Code and is colloquially termed “joyriding”.
Punishments differ between the two, with UUMV being categorized as a state jail felony, punishable by six months to 2 years in a state jail. Conversely, vehicle theft penalties vary based on the car’s worth.
Fort Worth Auto Theft Defense
While facing auto theft charges in Fort Worth can be daunting, several defense strategies can be employed depending on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the case. It’s essential to consult with an experienced defense attorney to determine the best approach. Some possible defenses include:
Lack of Intent: A key element in auto theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. If a person took a vehicle believing they had permission or without intending to keep it permanently, they might argue they lacked the necessary intent to commit auto theft.
Consent: If the defendant had permission from the vehicle owner to use it, they could argue that they did not commit theft. Proof of this consent, such as messages or eyewitnesses, can be beneficial.
Mistaken Identity: Due to the chaotic nature of theft incidents, misidentifications sometimes occur. If a defendant can provide a solid alibi or evidence that they were not at the scene of the crime, this may be a viable defense.
Insufficient Evidence: Prosecutors must prove every element of an auto theft charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If there’s insufficient evidence to support one or more of these elements, the defense can move to have the charges dropped or reduced.
Duress: If the defendant was under immediate threat or harm and stole the vehicle as a result, they might use duress as a defense. However, this can be challenging to prove and is context-specific.
Claim of Right: In some situations, a person might genuinely believe they have a right to the vehicle, either due to a misunderstanding or a belief they are reclaiming their property. While rare, this defense asserts that there was a good faith belief in ownership or entitlement.
Temporary Use: If the defendant can demonstrate that they only intended to use the vehicle temporarily and not permanently deprive the owner of it, it might reduce the charges or lead to a dismissal. This defense is similar to the “lack of intent” but focuses on the temporary nature of the use.
It’s important to remember that the best defense strategy will depend on the unique circumstances of each case. Consulting with a experienced Fort Worth defense attorney is crucial for understanding the available defenses and developing an effective strategy.
Call for a Free Consultation with a Fort Worth Auto Theft Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of stealing a car in Fort Worth, it’s imperative to have the best possible defense attorney in your corner. Not only are you facing possible jail time and a fine, but a conviction can have lasting consequences on your personal and professional life. At Varghese Summersett, we will do everything in our power to produce the most favorable outcome possible. Here’s how we can help:
- Expert Case Evaluation: Our team is made up of board certified criminal attorneys and former prosecutors who will thoroughly review all the facts and circumstances of your case. This involves analyzing the evidence, identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s claims, and strategizing the best defense approach tailored to your situation.
- Knowledge of Local Laws and Regulations: Texas has its unique set of laws and regulations when it comes to auto theft. Our attorneys are deeply familiar with Texas law, as well as local judicial procedures, ensuring that you receive a defense that’s both knowledgeable and locally relevant.
- Negotiating Plea Deals: If it’s in the best interest of the client, our attorneys are adept at negotiating plea bargains. This can result in reduced charges or even the possibility of alternative sentencing, which can significantly decrease the penalties faced.
- Strong Courtroom Representation: Should your case go to trial, our attorneys have extensive experience successfully defending clients in court. We understand the importance of a compelling narrative and will present your case in the most favorable light, challenging the prosecution at every step.
- Protection of Your Rights: Throughout the legal process, we will ensure that your rights are upheld. Any procedural mistakes or rights violations by law enforcement can be grounds for case dismissal or reduced charges.
- Support and Guidance: Beyond the legal defense, our team provides compassionate support, ensuring you understand each step of the process. We’re here to answer any questions, address concerns, and provide reassurance during this challenging time.
At Varghese Summersett, we recognize the gravity of auto theft charges and the profound impact they can have on a person’s life. Our approach is rooted in a combination of aggressive representation and compassionate counsel. When you choose us, you’re not just hiring an attorney; you’re securing a dedicated advocate committed to preserving your future. Call 817-203-2220 now for a free consultation with a Fort Worth auto theft lawyer.