If a car isn’t locked, does getting inside and going for a ride still qualify as theft?
Jamesha McChristine allegedly saw a woman exit her car and leave it running in a driveway on Dec. 20, 2017. McChristine is accused of entering the open car door and driving away in the car. She allegedly crashed it into two other vehicles that were parked in Elmhurst, along with landscaping owned by the city. Then she allegedly crashed it into a building and tried to flee the scene on foot before her arrest. She is now facing multiple felony charges, but is pleading not guilty.
In the State of Illinois, if you are facing charges of theft of a motor vehicle, you risk serious felony punishments. Taking a vehicle through unauthorized use, deception, or threats can result in prison time and heavy fines. For these reasons, it’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as charges are filed.
Illinois Auto Theft Definition
In Illinois, an individual may be charged with motor vehicle theft or possession of a stolen motor vehicle if any of the following acts occur.
- An individual possesses, receives, sells, conceals, transfers, or disposes of a vehicle with knowledge that vehicle was stolen or converted.
- An individual knowingly modifies or alters a vehicle identification number.
- An individual knowingly misrepresents or conceals the vehicle’s identity.
- An individual possesses, receives, sells, purchases or disposes of a vehicle while knowing the identification number was modified.
For a conviction to occur, intent to permanently deprive the vehicle owner of the vehicle’s use or benefit must be present. If the intent was not to permanently separate the vehicle from the owner, a theft charge can be dismissed.
Other unique situations apply to unlawful possession of a motor vehicle. For example:
- A renter is required to return a vehicle to the rental operation within 10 days of a written demand or within 24 hours if false identification was provided by the renter.
- An individual who takes another’s vehicle for a joyride will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor of criminal trespass.
- An individual commits the act of carjacking by using or threatening force to take a vehicle from another person.
A charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle applies if the defendant has control over a vehicle known to be stolen.
Knowledge and intent are important factors in motor vehicle theft and possession cases, and a skilled attorney will understand how the laws apply to your specific case.
Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft in Illinois
Penalties vary based on the vehicle’s value. Possession of a stolen motor vehicle is a Class 2 felony with 3-7 years of prison time. Carjacking is a Class 1 felony punishable by 15 years in prison. Motor vehicle theft is a Class X felony if aggravated charges apply, and can result in up to 30 years in prison.
Additional penalties may involve a suspended or revoked driver’s license, probation, community service, and restitution.
Since these charges come with serious penalties, it’s essential that you consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Call today to set up a free case review. We’ll help you put together the strongest possible defense to fight your charges.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.