Can Someone “Steal” a Car Without Driving It?
Scenario One: You wake up in the morning to find your car missing from your driveway. You call the police, they locate your car and arrest the person that took it. Your car is returned, and you go about your day.
Scenario Two: You are caught in a rainstorm and see a car running in someone’s driveway. Desperate to get out of the rain, you jump inside and shut the door. The owner finds you and calls the police. You are charged with auto theft.
The two scenarios are very different, but have a similar outcome. How is it possible? If you live in Minnesota, you can be charged with auto theft if you are found to be in a running car not belonging to you, even if you haven’t moved it an inch. The state’s Supreme Court recently ruled in such a case. That case could set a new precedent throughout the country.
The Minnesota Case
According to what is known, a man was accused of entering a running car in someone’s driveway on a cold morning. The owner called the police, and they were able to remove the man from the car. When they did, he was arrested and charged with vehicle theft. In Minnesota, the law says that anyone who “takes or drives a motor vehicle” without being given permission by the owner is guilty of theft. The state Supreme Court decided that “take” did not have to include moving the vehicle.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said that the word take could be used in different ways. They said that the word “take” in the robbery statute requires only temporary control of some property. They determined that the definition of take already in place in some statutes was the best to use in the case of motor vehicle theft. Will this apply to all other states? It clearly decides on how the states interpret wording used in their statutes. For now, if you live in the state of Minnesota, don’t get in anyone’s running car without permission.
Car Theft in Georgia
It was not clear what would happen to the man who had been arrested now that the Supreme Court has made its decision. What is known is that because of this decision, whatever consequences were given the man by the lower court will stand. Should a similar situation occur in Georgia, courts could look at this Minnesota case law and apply it here.
If you have been charged with motor vehicle theft in DeKalb County, you are facing very serious consequences. Do not assume that you can fight your charges on your own. You need the experience of a qualified criminal defense attorney by your side. Reach out to Hawkins, Spizman & Fortas today to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. We will meet with you, review the details of your arrest and charges, and advise you of your legal options. Call today to schedule your appointment or browse our website for more information about our firm and the types of cases we handle.