Car Theft Charges

Facing car theft charges in New Jersey? Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Breslow Law Offices today for a free consultation.

New Jersey Car Theft Lawyer

The laws in New Jersey are strict when it comes to car theft. There are several possible charges, some with severe penalties, even for first-time offenses. 

Having your driver’s license suspended, financial penalties, and a lengthy prison sentence are potential outcomes of being found guilty. If you are convicted of any car theft crime in New Jersey, the final verdict will impact you and your family.

If you've been charged with car theft crime, a New Jersey car theft lawyer can help you fight back.

At Breslow Law Offices, we are proud to have over four decades of experience as prosecutors and attorneys and an in-depth understanding of how the criminal justice system can function favorably in your situation. 

Contact us online or call 973-239-8000 today to speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case.

What is car theft under New Jersey law?

There are no separate statutes that specifically address car theft in New Jersey. If you face a car theft charge, the crime is defined as having taken the car without the owner’s permission. 

Being charged with unlawful taking of a motor vehicle is categorized as a fourth-degree offense. Under New Jersey laws, this means you could be facing the following penalties if convicted:

  • Prison sentence — you could be facing upwards of 18 months in prison if convicted for the first time on a car theft crime in New Jersey
  • Steep fines — you may be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000. 
  • Loss of driving rights — your driver’s license will be suspended for upwards of one year 
  • Restitution — if you are convicted, the owner of the car may also submit receipts showing any expenses they incurred retrieving their vehicle, which you may be obligated to reimburse them. 

Common variations of car theft in New Jersey

Although removing a car from someone’s property is considered theft in every state, New Jersey law sees and defines car theft in a number of variations.

Here are some examples:

  • Joyriding — When someone takes a car joyriding, they are putting others at risk. This crime is associated with temporarily removing a vehicle from the owner’s possession with the final intent of returning it. Joyriding is considered a class-four misdemeanor offense and still requires the defendant to face charges and potential penalties.
  • Stealing a parked car — if you steal someone’s car while parked, you will also face theft charges. Keep in mind. There may be other charges associated with a stolen car because a parked car would require being broken into and hot-wired.
  • Stealing a vehicle with stolen keys — using keys that were stolen from the owner of a car, or copied without the owner's knowledge, could mean you will face additional charges.
  • Carjacking — one of the most severe types of stolen vehicle charges is carjacking. Carjacking occurs when someone threatens a person with a bodily injury unless they allow them to take their car or when someone, through physical contact, removes someone’s vehicle from their possession. This type of crime is considered a first-degree-plus crime.
  • Theft by fraud — this type of theft occurs when someone offers to sell a car, the buyer receives the vehicle and bill of sale and is subsequently denied the funds for the purchase.

It is also important to remember that, in addition to facing theft charges, you could also be facing possession of stolen vehicle charges.

Note that while New Jersey does not have a specific grand theft auto charge, the mere value of a car can lead to criminal charges and jail time.

Penalties for car theft in New Jersey

Without the assistance of knowledgeable auto theft lawyers, defendants in car theft crimes in New Jersey could face serious penalties for their actions.

Those who have had previous convictions are potentially facing more jail time, steeper fines, and significant time without a driver’s license.

Auto theft as defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 and occurs when a car is taken with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

In addition to the standard theft penalties, the penalties for a car theft conviction are classified as:

  • First Conviction — $500 fine, jail sentence, and a one-year loss of your driver’s license
  • Second Conviction — $750 fine, jail sentence, and loss of your license for two years
  • Third Conviction — $1,000 fine, jail sentence, and the loss of your license for ten years

New Jersey takes theft charges very seriously and will always prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

While there are no specific New Jersey statutes pertaining to auto theft, other numerous laws could result in additional charges.

If any of the following occurs once a vehicle is in your possession, charges you may be facing can exponentially increase in severity:

  • Damage to the vehicle — you may be required to repay the cost of repairs to the stolen car
  • Bodily injury — if the car theft resulted in bodily injury, whether as a result of carjacking or because you were driving the car and struck another vehicle, you could be facing additional charges as well as civil penalties.
  • Other parties’ involvement — if a minor was involved in the theft of a vehicle, if you were part of a car theft ring, or if you did anything else to put others in danger while in possession of a stolen vehicle, you could face additional charges.

Prosecutors will stack charges upon each other to secure a conviction.

Without a sound defense strategy, you could be facing an extended prison sentence.

If you or someone you love has been charged with car theft, finding a legal advocate can be the most important step toward achieving a successful outcome. 

Legal Defenses for Auto Theft Charges in New Jersey

When facing a criminal charge, your defense strategy will hinge on your specific circumstances, however, some of the following defenses are commonly used in auto theft cases.

Consent. If a defendant claims consent as a defense, it is usually because the owner of the vehicle had previously given permission, but the circumstances are unclear regarding whether the accused had permission at the time of the incident. If the owner consented to the taking in question, then no illegal act was committed.

Mistake of fact. Lack of awareness about driving a stolen vehicle can serve as a defense for the defendant.

Permanent deprivation. To steal a car, one must have the intention of permanently depriving the owner of its use. Merely intending to take a car for a joyride does not constitute auto theft because the aim was to temporarily withhold the vehicle's use, not permanently deprive the owner.

Speak with an experienced New Jersey Auto Theft Attorney about your charges today

Don't wait until you are expected to show up in court to begin planning your defense strategy.

As soon as you are informed of auto theft charges, refuse to answer questions and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Discuss your NJ stolen vehicle charges and defense options with an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Breslow Law Offices today.

Contact us online or call 973-239-8000 for a free, no-risk consultation.


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