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Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Charges

Federal law makes it a crime to transport a vehicle in interstate commerce if the person knows it was stolen. In fact, even receiving, possessing, or selling a vehicle that crossed a state boundary after being stolen can be charged under federal law. The consequences of violating a federal law can be serious, so if you have are being investigated for or have been charged with a federal vehicle theft offense, it is critical to speak with an experienced federal crimes attorney who can help you formulate a defense.

Elements of Federal Motor Vehicle Theft

According to federal law, a person has committed federal vehicle theft if he or she:

  • Unlawfully transported a vehicle in interstate or foreign commerce; and
  • Knew that the motor vehicle was stolen.

Furthermore, in order to be considered stolen, a person must have feloniously taken or converted someone else’s property right in the vehicle. Generally, it does not matter how the perpetrator originally came into possession of the vehicle.

Federal Jurisdiction

Most cases involving allegations of vehicle theft are tried in state court. However, vehicle theft can be prosecuted in federal court when a case involves:

  • Organized crime rings or multi-theft operations across state lines; or
  • Exceptional circumstances.

Although there is no set definition of what qualifies as exceptional circumstances, federal law does provide a few examples clarifying what kinds of situations constitute exceptional circumstances, including when:

  • The stolen car is used in the commission of a separate felony for which punishment is less than ten years imprisonment;
  • The stolen vehicle was demolished, sold, or exported to a foreign country;
  • The car was heavily stripped or grossly misused;
  • A person steals more than one car in such a manner as to indicate a pattern of conduct;
  • The vehicle is a heavy commercial truck; or
  • The vehicle is a piece of construction or farming equipment, such as a tractor or bulldozer.

There are also certain situations in which a case cannot be prosecuted in federal court, even if the theft involved interstate commerce. For example, cases involving joy-riding must be filed in state court as should cases in which the individual to be charged is:

  • A person under the age of 18 years old; or
  • At least 18 years old, but less than 21 years old and has not been arrested more than twice for motor vehicle theft or been convicted of a criminal offense more than once.

If the facts of a case do not support any of these exceptions, then a vehicle theft case may end up being prosecuted in federal court.

Call Today to Schedule a Consultation With an Experienced Federal Crimes Attorney

Federal theft cases are aggressively prosecuted and defendants who are convicted face up to ten years in prison, so if you have been charged with vehicle theft or another federal vehicle-related offense, such as altering vehicle identification numbers or trafficking in stolen motor vehicle parts, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at (305) 670-9919 to speak with a dedicated Miami federal crimes attorney about your case.




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