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Auto Theft Attorney in Hudson County


You never imagined that when your friends picked you up to drive out to a concert, the night out could have taken such a wrong turn. Your ride to the night’s festivities turned out to be stolen, and now you and your friends have been arrested and charged with auto theft. Worse yet, you are the only one charged as an adult since your friends are all juveniles charged under that age of 18. Understandably, you want help. Rest assured, an experienced New Jersey auto theft defense attorney at the Hudson County criminal defense law firm of William Proetta Criminal Law can assist and guide you through the legal process, from arrest to the best disposition of the charges. Our attorneys will go the extra mile to educate and advise you about the theft of a motor vehicle charges brought against you, so that you know what to expect and what can be done to defend your innocence. We will also fight tooth and nail to achieve the top results in your case. If you have been arrested or accused of auto theft in Hudson County, NJ, including in Kearny, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Secaucus, West New York, and Union City, we are available and stand at the ready to assist you. Contact our local Jersey City office today at (201) 793-8018 to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer who can help in a free consultation.


Auto theft is an intentional taking and deprivation of use of a car by the owner temporarily, as in a joy ride (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10), or permanently, as in auto theft (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3). The distinction lies in the intention of the party taking the vehicle, whether they intend to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the stolen vehicle. A non-consensual taking of someone’s property with the intention to keep it from its owner is at the heart of theft. The taking may be by transferring funds from someone’s bank or credit card account, so technically there is no actual physical taking, or theft can be by deception or extortion, lying or threatening to gain property. In the case of auto theft, the subject of the taking is a motor vehicle.


The penalties and fines for a theft conviction vary, but auto theft by taking a motor vehicle with the purpose to deprive the owner of it permanently is a third degree crime. This third degree felony offense is punishable by three to five years of incarceration and up to $15,000.00 in penalties and fines. If the offense was done with purpose temporarily as in the case of joyriding, it is a fourth degree indictable crime carrying penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine after conviction.

A first offense auto theft conviction also includes an added $500.00 to the other penalties. Plus, you face a one-year driver’s license suspension if you have one, or delay in getting a license if you do not. A second violation adds a $750.00 fine and a 2-year license suspension, and a third offense adds $1,000.00 and a 10-year license suspension. For juveniles under 17, the license postponement is calculated from the time the juvenile turns 17 until the one, two, or ten years pass, depending on whether the offense was committed for the first, second or third time. In addition, a stolen vehicle and its contents worth $7,500.00 or more must be paid for by the convicted defendant or defendants.


If your attorney can prove that you were not the one who stole the car, you might not be convicted of wrongfully taking a motor vehicle. However, you may still be convicted of crimes that grow out of auto theft. Additional crimes associated with auto theft may be charged to a defendant who operated a stolen vehicle recklessly, causing others risk of bodily or property damage, a third degree crime. And those who ride along in a stolen car, knowing the car is stolen, are guilty of a fourth degree indictable crime (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10). Furthermore, encouraging, ordering or soliciting a minor to steal a motor vehicle is a second degree felony offense, punishable by a five to ten-year prison sentence and up to $150,000.00 in fines in addition to the auto theft charge (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-17).

In larger auto theft operations, keeping a stolen motor vehicle storage is also a second degree crime with the added penalty of a three to five-year license suspension. Plus, if you are the leader of an auto theft ring, you face a second degree criminal conviction with an additional $250,000.00 fine or five times the value of the stolen vehicles seized upon arrest, whichever is more (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-18). Finally carjacking (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2), which is a violent act of taking of someone’s motor vehicle by threat of harm, is a first degree crime carrying 10 to 30 years’ incarceration, with minimally five years without parole eligibility.


No matter what the charges eventually sort out to be, you need an attorney to vindicate you and demonstrate to the court that the police were wrong about your role in the night out with a stolen car or any other circumstances that led to you being arrested for allegedly stealing a car. Our skilled Hudson County criminal lawyers can argue for lesser charges, advocate for your rights, provide a solid defense, protect you against self-incrimination in the investigative stage of the case, as well as potentially get you released from jail while your case is ongoing. We can also challenge illegally obtained evidence if your arrest, search and seizure was improper. Your defense may include presenting exculpatory evidence to the jury, such as an alibi, consent to use the vehicle, or ignorance of the stolen status of the vehicle.

At trial, our attorneys can also challenge the proceedings and witnesses as biased and untrustworthy, even before trial during an identification lineup. In some cases, we can also challenge the way evidence was maintained by the police and prosecution and the value assigned to the stolen property. If you are convicted, our defense lawyers can still persuade a judge that this is your first offense, you caused no damage to the car, and rehabilitation or probation is a better sentence than a long prison sentence. We can equally negotiate a lesser sentence or get you diverted to a Pre-trial Intervention program for first offenders, leaving you with no arrest or conviction record after the one to three years it takes to successfully complete the program. Other programs may likewise be available to you if you are a veteran or your charges were caused by substance abuse.

With the potential for a stiff sentence upon conviction for auto theft or associated crimes in Hudson County, you want a strong advocate on your side. The defense lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law are here for you. Contact us at (201) 793-8018 to discuss your auto theft case free of charge.