Charges of auto theft, carjacking, or unauthorized use of a vehicle in Tarrant County can lead to serious penalties and repercussions. A conviction for this felony offense could result in jail or prison time, hefty fines, a possibly permanent criminal record, an inability to pursue certain jobs, professions, or occupations, and/or ineligibility to apply for some types of higher education.

You need to know that auto theft charges do not necessarily have to result in a conviction. A state prosecutor is required to prove you committed every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It can be a very difficult burden to meet and can result in a dismissal or reduction of the criminal charges against you if the judge or jury has any doubt you committed the offense. Therefore, it is essential to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth to help you identify your best legal defense.

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Carjacking Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, TX

If you were arrested for alleged automobile theft in Fort Worth, or any of the surrounding areas in Texas, including Arlington, Azle, Bedford, Benbrook, Blue Mound, Burleson, Colleyville, Crowley, Dalworthington Gardens, Edgecliff Village, Euless, Everman, Flower Mound, Forest Hill, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Haltom City, Haslet, Hurst, Keller, Kennedale, Lakeside, Lake Worth, Mansfield, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pantego, Pelican Bay, Reno, Richland Hills, River Oaks, Saginaw, Sansom Park, Southlake, Trophy Club, Watauga, Westlake, Westover Hills, Westworth Village, or White Settlement, contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy.

Richard McConathy is an aggressive Tarrant County criminal defense lawyer who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you. Call the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy at (817) 422-5350 about your carjacking allegations.

Auto Theft in Tarrant County

Texas does not have a specific auto theft law, which means anyone who takes another person’s vehicle can be prosecuted under one of several different statutes. The most common statute used to prosecute auto theft offenders is the state’s general theft law. Under Texas Penal Code § 31.03, an individual can be charged with auto theft if they unlawfully take another person’s vehicle with the intent to deprive that person of their vehicle.

Taking another person’s vehicle is unlawful if:

  • The owner did not consent;
  • The alleged offender took the vehicle knowing it was a stolen vehicle; or
  • The alleged offender took the vehicle from law enforcement officials knowing it was a stolen vehicle.

Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in Fort Worth

An individual can also be charged with auto theft in Texas under the state’s unauthorized use law. According to Texas Penal Code § 31.07, an individual can be charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle if they intentionally or knowingly operate another person’s vehicle that is propelled by a motor, boat or airplane without their consent.

Joyriding is considered “unauthorized use of a vehicle.” This is different than theft because theft involves the intent to deprive the owner of the property. If the individual returns the vehicle to the owner, it may be charged as unauthorized use of a vehicle. This is a state jail felony offense in Texas and can result in 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Carjacking Penalties in Tarrant County

Penalties for auto theft and carjacking are defined in Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code. These penalties can vary depending on the value of the vehicle stolen, whether the alleged offender has a previous criminal history, whether a weapon was used during the commission of the offense, whether anyone was injured during the commission of the offense, and what statute the alleged offender is charged under. The most common penalties for auto theft in Fort Worth are as follows:

  • An individual charged with auto theft can face a Class C misdemeanor conviction, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is less than $50.
  • An individual charged with carjacking can face a Class B misdemeanor conviction, which is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 180 days and/or a fine up to $2,000 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $50 or more but less than $500.
  • An individual charged with auto theft can face a Class A misdemeanor conviction, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000 if the value of the property is valued at $500 or more but less than $1,500.
  • An individual charged with carjacking can face a state jail felony conviction, which is punishable by a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and/or a fine up to $10,000 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000.
  • An individual charged with auto theft can face a felony of the third-degree theft conviction, which is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000.
  • An individual charged with carjacking can face a felony of second-degree conviction, which is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000.
  • An individual charged with auto theft can face a felony of the first-degree conviction, which is punishable by five to 99 years in prison or life imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000 if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $200,000 or more.
  • An individual who is charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle can be convicted of a state jail felony. This degree of offense is punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
 

For a vehicle valued between $750 and $2,499, an alleged offender will face Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by one year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine. If the vehicle’s value was between $2,500 and $29,999, an alleged offender will face a state jail felony, punishable by two years in state jail and/or $10,000 fine. If the vehicle’s value was more than $30,000 but less than $150,000, an alleged offender will face a third-degree felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. If the value of the stolen vehicle(s) ranges from $150,000 to $300,000, an alleged offender will face a second-degree felony, punishable by 20 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. If an alleged offender stole a vehicle worth $300,000 or more, they will face a first-degree felony charge, punishable by 99 years to life in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Aggravating factors that may increase the severity of the charges a person faces include the following:

  • An alleged offender was a public servant at the time of the theft, and the car they stole was under your job-related control
  • An alleged offender was a government contractor at the time, and the car they stole was under your job-related control
  • The property owner was an elderly adult or a nonprofit entity
  • An alleged offender caused a fire alarm to sound during the commission of the theft
  • An alleged offender disarmed or deactivated a fire alarm during the commission of the theft
  • Have a prior criminal record
  • Had a weapon in their possession
  • Caused any property damage
  • Caused anyone to sustain injuries
  • Caused a fatality
 

Carjacking may be elevated to aggravated robbery if the alleged offender uses or shows a deadly weapon, the alleged offender causes serious bodily injury, the alleged victim is a disabled person, or the alleged victim is a person 65 years old or older.

A number of possible defenses could be raised against auto theft charges. These could include the alleged offender being the owner of the vehicle, the owner consenting to let the alleged offender drive the vehicle, the alleged offender never intending to deprive the owner of the vehicle, the alleged offender driving the vehicle believing it was not stolen, or the police violating the alleged offender’s rights against unlawful search and seizure.

If a person takes a car but intends to return it to the owner, the person has not committed the crime of theft, only the crime of unlawful taking or driving of a car (also called joyriding). Because joyriding involves a temporary (rather than permanent) deprivation, the penalties for joyriding tend to be less severe than auto theft.

Tarrant County Auto Theft Resources 

Facts + Statistics: Auto theft | III – Insurance Information Institute — According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), about $6.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2019. The average dollar loss per theft was $8,886. Motor vehicles were stolen at a rate of 219.9 per 100,000 people in 2019, down from 230.2 in 2018. In 2019, 721,885 vehicles were stolen, down 4.0 percent from 751,885 vehicles in 2018.

Vehicle Theft Prevention | NHTSA — NHTSA notes that almost 700,000 people a year have cars stolen. Learn what you can do to reduce motor vehicle theft. Find ways to protect your ride and also read many statistics.

Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Carjacking | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy

Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for a consultation about your alleged auto theft offense in Dallas County in Texas. Richard McConathy is a knowledgeable theft defense lawyer in Dallas who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you and help you achieve the most desirable outcome for your particular situation.

Call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online today for a consultation about your carjacking charges throughout Tarrant County in Texas and the surrounding counties of Collin County, Dallas County, and Tarrant County.

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