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Driving Another’s Car Without Permission in New Jersey: What are the Consequences?

Earlier in August, 47 year old Eduardo Huaman of Bergen County was given permission by his boss to retrieve items from the company’s work van. After gaining access to the vehicle, he apparently drove away in it and Mr. Huaman’s former supervisor called the police to report the vehicle stolen. Shortly after the report was made, police officers arrested Mr. Huaman on charges of receiving stolen property.

Although Mr. Huaman appears to have driven away in a vehicle that did not belong to him, one can surmise a multitude of reasons explaining why he could have reasonably believed he did not know he was committing an illegal act by driving away in the vehicle. Regardless of what excuses he may have, he will still have to assert his defenses in a court of law.

Additional Penalties are Associated With Auto Theft

The state of New Jersey does not actually have a specific law criminalizing the theft of a vehicle. So does this mean that you can steal a car without worry of penalty? The answer is obviously “no,” but how then how are you punished for auto theft if there is no law prohibiting it specifically? Rather than develop statutes prohibiting the theft of a car, New Jersey law mandates that the theft of a vehicle fall under broader theft categories such as larceny and grand larceny.

Earlier this year, we wrote about theft crimes in our blog and we outlined theft of property under a larceny offense. Although auto theft is chargeable under standard larceny statutes, if you are charged with theft of a car, additional fines and penalties are oftentimes imposed.

Asserting the Appropriate Defense for a Theft Charge is Paramount

If you are charged with theft involving an automobile, you should seek legal counsel immediately because there are defenses that you may be able to assert. For example, if the owner of the vehicle gave you consent to use the car, then you could not have stolen it. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but sometimes consent can be implied rather than expressed. This means that the car owner’s actions indicated that he or she did not mind if you took the car even if he or she did not expressly say so.

Another way to assert your innocence is proving that you did not know the car was stolen. For example, imagine borrowing a car that you believed belonged to your friend. Your friend gave his express consent but he did not tell you that he had stolen the car. In this case, your attorney will argue mistake of fact as your defense.

Call a Bergen County Defense Lawyer for Legal Help Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with theft involving a motor vehicle in the state of New Jersey or surrounding area, you will need a criminal defense attorney. Even if you do not feel like you have broken any laws, obtaining legal counsel is the most assured way of resolving your case because once you have been charged by prosecutors, you must explain to a court of law why you are not guilty. Phillip J. Murphy has years of experience defending felony crimes, including theft charges. Call today and let us help you navigate the difficult process of a criminal investigation and charges.

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