Auto Theft Defense in Indiana

In movies and on television, stealing fast cars can be made to seem macho and romantic. The hero breaks into the exotic sports car late at night, breaks into the ignition column, splices wires together and zooms into the night. But in real life, the truth is significantly less impressive. For one thing, the cars usually stolen are more often than not regular sedans. And at the end of the day, it’s not riches and fame that await the thief, but instead courtrooms and prison cells.

Contact McNeely Stephenson in New Albany

If you’ve been accused, charged or arrested for auto theft in Indiana, contact McNeely Stephenson Attorneys in New Albany. McNeely Stephenson has years of experience defending cases all over Indiana and will work tirelessly to help create the defense strategy you need. We have the resources and experience to help. If you have questions or want to set up a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 812.725.8224.

Legal Definition

The concept of auto theft is fairly simple: taking someone else’s vehicle without their permission. But while that is certainly a part of it, the prosecutor must prove that not only did the defendant take the vehicle, but he had no intention of ever returning it — a much more difficult proposition.

Indiana Law

Indiana law is specific about the crimes and penalties related to auto theft. The specific statutes state:

IC 35-43-4-2.5 Auto theft; receiving stolen auto parts Sec. 2.5. (a) As used in this section, “motor vehicle” has the meaning set forth in IC 9-13-2-105(a). (b) A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person, with intent to deprive the owner of: (1) the vehicle’s value or use; or (2) a component part (as defined in IC 9-13-2-34) of the vehicle; commits auto theft, a Level 6 felony. (c) A person who knowingly or intentionally receives, retains, or disposes of a motor vehicle or any part of a motor vehicle of another person that has been the subject of theft commits receiving stolen auto parts, a Level 6 felony.

Indiana Code Section 35-43–4-3 (Joyriding/ Criminal Conversion) Sec. 3. (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person commits criminal conversion, a Class A misdemeanor. (b) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 6 felony if committed by a person who exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person with the intent to use the motor vehicle to assist the person in the commission of a crime. (c) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 5 felony if: (1) committed by a person who exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person; and (2) the person uses the motor vehicle to assist the person in the commission of a felony. (d) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 6 felony if: (1) the person acquires the property by lease; (2) the property is a motor vehicle; (3) the person signs a written agreement to return the property to a specified location within a specified time; and (4) the person fails to return the property: (A) within thirty (30) days after the specified time; or (B) within three (3) days after a written demand for return of the property is either: (i) personally served on the person; or (ii) sent by registered mail to the person’s address that is provided by the person in the written agreement.

Car Theft Penalties

Auto Theft

A conviction of auto theft for a first offense is considered a Level 6 Felony, the penalty for which includes a maximum of a $10,000 fine and a maximum of up to 30 months in prison. Previous convictions raise the charge to a Level 5 Felony; the fines remain the same, but maximum possible jail time increases to six years.

Joyriding/Criminal Conversion

The charge is a Class A misdemeanor which includes a maximum of a $5,000 fine and one year in jail.

Possible Defense

There are two basic defenses used against charges of auto theft.

  • The first is that the defendant had the intention of returning the car. If the defense can plausibly prove this true, then charges may be reduced to joyriding, which carries much less serious penalties.
  • The second defense is common mostly among family and friends. This includes implied consent, suggesting that the defendant either had consent or was simply taking the vehicle for a ride.

McNeely Stephenson, a law firm in New Albany, Indiana, has faithfully served the people and communities of Indiana and Kentucky for several years in a variety of legal areas. We have the experience and resources to help. To ask a question or to set up a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 812.725.8224.