Stealing a car is a throw-away part of many movies and video games. Characters hop into, hotwire and steal someone else's car without any consideration of the consequences. They drive away, often trashing the vehicle in the process. In the end, they dispose of the vehicle as though it's of no concern. Seeing it happen so much in the media can inspire people, especially impressionable teens and young adults.
In the real world, unlike movies, there are major consequences that can last for years for people who get caught stealing vehicles. With modern technology, including mobile phone records, GPS systems and internal cameras, the potential for getting caught is high. The state does its best to deter this kind of crime by penalizing it seriously.
Car theft is a common crime in Texas, not a minor one
According to the Texas Department of Motor vehicles, more than 65,000 vehicles get stolen in Texas each year. You may think with theft rates that high that penalties may be low for such a common crime. The truth is that potential penalties include fines and jail time, as well as a criminal record.
The penalties for theft of a vehicle, also called larceny, will vary depending on the overall value of the vehicle. Clunkers worth less than $750 carry a Class B misdemeanor. If the value of the vehicle is between $750 and $2,500, the crime becomes a Class A misdemeanor. For most vehicles, worth between $2,500 and $30,000, the charge becomes a state jail felony. The penalties for these charges range from a fine of as little as $500 to $10,000 in fines and a jail term. Life in jail may be possible in some cases.
Even if you go for a joyride and return the vehicle, you could face charges related to the unauthorized use of a vehicle. In this scenario, a conviction could mean up to two years in jail as well as a potential fine of as much as $10,000.
A criminal record can also be a major concern
The fines and potential jail time for a theft conviction is only the first half of the consequences. You will also end up saddled with a criminal record that will make getting a good job in the future more difficult. Criminal background checks are now very common for new hires, as well as promotions. A conviction could even result in the loss of your job if your employer has a policy regarding criminal convictions.
You need to really evaluate all of your options if you're facing criminal charges related to motor vehicle theft. A strong defense and a proper strategy can mitigate the impact of the charges on your life.