DC Auto Theft Lawyer

In DC, auto theft is defined as the taking, using, or operating, or causing of a motor vehicle to be taken, used, or operated for his or her own purpose, without the consent of the owner. While this statute is worded very broadly, this type of offense is treated very seriously and therefore warrants attention from a DC auto theft lawyer as soon as possible after an accusation has been made.

An experienced theft lawyer in DC will be able to work with an individual early in the case, so that the individual can provide the lawyer with all of the pertinent information and facts. Thereby helping the attorney formulate defenses and reveal any further investigation that may need to be completed.

Differences Between Auto Theft and Carjacking in DC

There are a couple of important distinctions between auto theft and carjacking in DC. Carjacking requires proof that a person used physical force or violence when taking the motor vehicle. Automobile theft merely requires proof that a person took the motor vehicle. Additionally, carjacking requires proof that the motor vehicle was taken against the person’s will.

For example, if a person spotted an unoccupied motor vehicle parked on the side of the road with the keys in the ignition, entered the car and drove it away, this would be considered automobile theft rather than carjacking because there was no physical force or violence used and it was not taken against another person’s will. The fact that it was taken without the owner’s permission would meet the requirements for automobile theft.


A conviction for auto theft carries potential penalties of up to five years imprisonment, a $12,500 fine, or both. The potential penalties increase if a person has two prior convictions for either unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or first degree theft. In that scenario an auto theft attorney in DC is imperative as the potential penalties for the current automobile theft increase from a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 up to $15,000 and a mandatory minimum prison term of 30 months up to a maximum of 15 years.

Impact of Technology on Auto Theft Cases

It has become much easier for police officers and vehicle owners to track vehicles which have been stolen, as technology continues to advance. Many people now subscribe to services that make it possible to locate the stolen vehicle and even disable the operation of the vehicle. Subscribers of these services have the option of putting labels on their cars to alert potential thieves that their vehicles are protected by either GPS technology or an alarm service.

Immobilizers are also increasingly prevalent, making it much more difficult to steal a car. An immobilizer will prohibit a vehicle from starting unless a specific key is used, which is recognized by a built-in computer system in the car.

Building a Defense

The first thing a DC auto theft lawyer will ask a potential client during an initial consultation is what their relationship is, if any, with the owner of the vehicle. In some situations, a vehicle may have more than one owner, which can result in confusion when one owner grants a person permission to temporarily use the vehicle without another owner’s knowledge. In these scenarios, the nature of the relationship between the client and the owner or owners of the car can provide important details in building a possible defense.

An auto theft lawyer in the DC area would also ask a potential client about any prior criminal history in order to assess the severity of possible penalties the client may face if convicted. Any information on the client’s personal life and employment could also help a lawyer during negotiations.