If you face charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, it’s essential to know what to do. Many people assume that they must have stolen the car themselves for law enforcement to charge them, but this is not always the case. In North Carolina, 5,458 individuals faced this felony charge in a recent year!
It’s crucial to know that you can face charges for possessing a stolen vehicle even if you are only driving it or if law enforcement finds it at your house. Let’s look at what possession of a stolen vehicle entails and some tips on how to defend yourself against the charge.
Possession of a Stolen Vehicle
If you face charges for possessing a stolen vehicle, it is vital to understand the charge and what you can do to fight it. Possession of a stolen car is a serious crime, and you could face significant penalties if convicted, including Class H felony charges.
NC Law states that police can charge you with possession of a stolen vehicle if you have reason to believe (or you should believe) someone stole a car and you:
- Intend to obtain the title or pass the title of a stolen car
- Receive the car from someone else
- Possess the car
So let’s break down what these laws mean and look at the three ways you can face charges for possessing a stolen vehicle.
Knowing Someone Stole the Car
So let’s say your boyfriend stole a car and asks you to drive it to a garage for him because he is busy with other work. You think that you can’t get into trouble because you didn’t steal the car. However, law enforcement catches you driving the car and charges you with possession of a stolen vehicle.
In this case, you face charges just like you stole the car yourself, even though you were doing a favor for your boyfriend. If the court can prove that you should have known he stole the car and that you were driving the vehicle at the time of your arrest, you could spend time in prison.
Intending to Steal the Title to the Car
As another example, let’s say your friend stole a different friend’s vehicle. They ask you to go to that other friend’s house and find the title. So you call your other friend and say you want to hang out. You go over, find the title, put it in your bag, and leave. On the way home, law enforcement stops you and finds the title in your possession. Police can see that the car is on the stolen vehicle list, so they arrest you. You face charges for possession of a stolen car and possible prison time.
Receiving the Car From Someone Else
Let’s say you are out on the town enjoying your evening when a friend who just got out of prison for car theft asks you to drive his car home because he had too much to drink. You want to get into his good graces, so you agree and hop into the driver’s seat.
If law enforcement stops you on the way home, they can charge you with possession of a stolen vehicle, even though you did not steal the car or know for sure that he stole it. You can face charges because you had reason to believe he stole the vehicle. You knew about his past theft record and his current relationship with known theft rings.
Defenses to Possession of a Stolen Vehicle
In North Carolina, there are ways to defend against a charge of possessing a stolen vehicle. Working with an experienced criminal law defense attorney can make all the difference. However, it is also vital that you call your lawyer before speaking with any law enforcement officers. If you remain silent, you have more options for your defense.
Speaking to law enforcement before speaking with your defense attorney means that a court can hold anything you say against you. If you agree with an amiable officer and say, “Yes, I stole the car,” your case is more difficult to defend.
One defense often used in a courtroom is “consent.” If you believed at the time you took the car, you had permission from the car’s owner; then you did not steal the vehicle. If you had consent to drive the car somehow, you are on your way to a good defense strategy.
Another defense could be that you didn’t understand that you were driving a stolen car. If you had no intent or knowledge about the crime and no reason to know about it, the court would not convict you of possession of a stolen vehicle.
Possession of stolen vehicle charges in North Carolina bring felony-level penalties with possible prison time. That’s why it’s crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so they can begin building your defense.
If you are facing a possession of a stolen vehicle charge, the best thing to do is remain silent and let your attorney help you understand the charges against you. Their experience can build a strong defense so that you receive reduced or even dismissed charges. Don’t try to defend yourself against these serious charges – let an experienced professional handle it for you.
We Can Help
At The Scharff Law Firm, we work with you every step of the way, from the time of your arrest to negotiations with the district attorney’s office for possible reduced or dismissed theft charges to possible courtroom defense. We will not give up on you and will use our experience to fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to speaking with you soon.