Fort Worth Auto Theft Lawyer | Stolen cars in north texas
Car theft is on the rise in Fort Worth, with the number of cars stolen up 33.7 percent from the same time last year. according to Fort Worth Police Department’s 2023 Second Quarter Crime ReportThere were 1,052 vehicle thefts from April to June, compared to 766 during the same three months of 2022.
Whenever there is an increase in a particular crime, law enforcement authorities will intensify their efforts to address and combat the problem. Prosecutors often follow suit by trying to make an example of defendants in an attempt to deter others from committing the same crime.
For this reason, it is extremely important, if you or a loved one has been arrested for a vehicle theft in Fort Worth, that you contact an experienced vehicle theft attorney. At Varghese Summersett, we have extensive experience defending vehicle theft cases in the Fort Worth-North Texas area.
In this article, we explain the law, potential penalties, defense strategies, and the importance of securing a top-notch criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one is facing car theft charges in Fort Worth.
Understand Texas vehicle theft laws
In Texas, there is no specific law that specifically addresses car theft. Instead, the offense is covered under the general theft law Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code.
Under this law, a person commits theft — including auto theft in Fort Worth — if they unlawfully take possession of property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Property is seized illegally if:
- was taken without the express consent of the actual owner;
- The money is stolen and the perpetrator knows it is stolen but takes it anyway; or
- Stolen property is in the custody of law enforcement and is taken by the perpetrator knowing it was stolen by someone else.
In layman’s terms, if you take something that isn’t yours without intending to return it — including a car — you commit theft in Texas.
Penalties for vehicle theft in Texas
The penalty for vehicle theft in Texas depends on the amount of vehicle stolen. 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 potential consequences based on the value of the theft:
|The amount stolen||Classification of crime||penalty|
|Less than $100||Class C misdemeanor||A fine of up to $500|
|$100 to $749||Class B misdemeanor||Up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine|
|$750 to $2,499||A misdemeanor of the first degree||Imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of $4,000|
|$2,500 to $29,999||State prison crime||180 days to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine|
|$30,000 to $149,999||A third-degree felony||Imprisonment from two to 10 years and a fine of $10,000|
|$150,000 to $299,999||Second degree felony||Imprisonment from two to 20 years and a fine of $10,000|
|$300,000 or more||First degree felony||Imprisonment from 5 to 99 years and a fine of $10,000|
In addition to potential prison time and fines, a conviction can result in secondary repercussions such as a tainted record and challenges obtaining a job, housing, or loan. If you have been accused of car theft in Fort Worth, it is essential to contact a Fort Worth car theft attorney with a proven track record of success.
The difference between auto theft and UUMV
Although they may 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 example, UUMV situations often arise when a teenager, for example, takes his or her parents’ car without permission. UUMV is categorized under Section 31.07 of the Texas Penal Code It is colloquially called “horse riding.”
Penalties differ between the two, as UUMV is classified as a state prison felony, punishable by six months to two years in state prison. Conversely, car theft penalties vary based on the value of the car.
Fort Worth Auto Theft Defense
While facing car theft charges in Fort Worth can be daunting, several defense strategies can be used depending on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the case. It is necessary to consult with an experienced defense attorney to determine the best approach. Some possible defenses include:
Lack of intention: One of the key elements in car theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his car. If a person takes possession of a vehicle believing they have a permit or without intending to keep it permanently, they may argue that they lacked the intent to commit motor vehicle theft.
consent: If the defendant has permission from the car owner to use it, he or she can argue that he did not commit theft. Proof of this consent, such as letters or eyewitnesses, may be helpful.
Wrong identity: Due to the chaotic nature of theft incidents, mistakes in identity sometimes occur. If the defendant can provide a solid alibi or evidence that he or she was not at the crime scene, this may be a viable defense.
Insufficient evidence: Prosecutors must prove each element of a car theft charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence to support one or more of these elements, the defense can move to dismiss or reduce the charges.
coercion: If the defendant is under direct threat or harm and steals the car as a result, he or she may use duress as a defense. However, proving this can be difficult and context-specific.
Claim the right: In some situations, a person may truly believe they have a right to the car, either due to a misunderstanding or belief that they are getting their property back. Although rare, this defense asserts that there was a bona fide belief of ownership or entitlement.
Temporary use: If the defendant can prove that he or she intended to use the vehicle only temporarily and not deprive the owner of it permanently, this may result in the charges being reduced or resulting in dismissal. This defense is similar to the “absence of intent” doctrine but focuses on the temporary nature of the use.
It is important to remember that the best defense strategy will depend on the unique circumstances of each case. Consulting with an experienced Fort Worth defense attorney is critical to understanding available defenses and developing an effective strategy.
Call for a free consultation with a Fort Worth car theft defense attorney
If you have been accused of car theft in Fort Worth, it is essential that you have the best possible defense attorney in your corner. Not only will you face jail time and a fine, but a conviction could have lasting consequences on your personal and professional life. At Varghese Summersett, we will do everything we can to achieve the best possible results. Here’s how we can help:
- Expert case evaluation: Our team consists of board-certified criminal attorneys and former prosecutors who will thoroughly review all of the facts and circumstances of your case. This includes analyzing the evidence, identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s claims, and strategizing the best defense approach for your situation.
- Knowledge of local laws and regulations: Texas has a unique set of laws and regulations when it comes to car theft. Our attorneys are fully versed in Texas law, as well as local judicial procedures, ensuring you receive a knowledgeable and locally relevant defense.
- Negotiating plea deals: If it is in the client’s best interest, our attorneys are skilled at negotiating plea deals. This can lead to reduced charges or even the possibility of alternative sentencing, which can significantly reduce the penalties imposed.
- Strong representation in the courtroom: 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 best light, challenging the prosecution at every step.
- Protect your rights: Throughout the legal process, we will ensure that your rights are preserved. Any procedural errors or violations of rights by law enforcement could be grounds for dismissal of the case or reduction of fees.
- Support and guidance: In addition to legal defense, our team provides compassionate support, ensuring you understand every step of the process. We are here to answer any questions, address concerns and provide reassurance during this difficult time.
At Varghese Summersett, we understand how serious car theft charges can be 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 a lawyer; You secure a dedicated advocate committed to preserving your future. Call 817-203-2220 now for a free consultation with a Fort Worth car theft attorney.