Could an ordinary traffic stop lead to auto theft charges? It could, especially if you’re in a borrowed car.
Maybe you’ve borrowed your brother’s car a dozen times before, but you forgot to ask this one time, so your brother reported the car stolen without realizing you had it. Maybe you borrowed a girlfriend’s car but the relationship is rocky, and she took her revenge for some slight by alleging you had her car without permission. Whatever the case, you’re now in handcuffs.
This kind of thing can leave people bewildered, scared, and angry – but it probably happens a lot more than people realize. Relatives get angry, friendships fall apart and the accusations start flying.
How much trouble are you in?
In Pennsylvania, anyone who “unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive” them of that property is guilty of a third-degree felony. A conviction can bring up to seven years in jail and a $15,000 fine – not to mention a permanent criminal record and all the consequences that can have on your life.
That’s why it’s so important to fight this kind of charge by showing that you had no actual intention to deprive the vehicle’s owner of their property. You may have text messages or other records that show you thought you had permission to borrow it, and that you offered to promptly return it as soon as you found out otherwise. You may have proof that the owner only reported the car as stolen because they were angry at you.
Whatever your situation, experienced legal guidance can help you get the best possible outcome if you’ve been charged with auto theft.