Indiana law contains statutes specifically dedicated to motor vehicle theft crimes. Conviction for any of these crimes carries the possibility of prison and a substantial fine.
Under Indiana’s auto theft statute, a person commits the offense by intentionally exercising control over another person’s vehicle with the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle’s use or value, or deprive the owner of a component part (the vehicle’s engine, transmission, body-chassis, front assembly, rear-end, or frame). For example, a person who takes another person’s car without permission, intending to strip it and sell the parts, commits auto theft.
A person commits the offense of receiving stolen auto parts by receiving, retaining, or disposing of a stolen vehicle or any part of a stolen vehicle.
(Ind. Code § § 9-13-2-34, 35-43-4-25)
An individual who exercises control over another’s vehicle without the owner’s permission commits criminal conversion. Therefore, a person who takes another’s vehicle on a joyride commits the offense.
A person commits unauthorized control of a motor vehicle by using another’s vehicle without permission with the intent to use the vehicle to assist in committing a crime.
(Ind. Code § 35-43-4-3)
Indiana’s unauthorized control of a vehicle statute also criminalizes the failure to return a rental vehicle. A person who rents a vehicle and signs an agreement to return the vehicle at a particular time to a particular place commits unauthorized control of a vehicle if the person fails to return the vehicle either within 30 days after the date the agreement requires the vehicle’s return, or within three days after either receiving a written demand for the vehicle’s return, or three days after such a demand is sent by registered mail to the renter’s address as listed on the rental agreement.
(Ind. Code § 35-43-4-3)
An individual who takes a vehicle from a person by using or threatening to use force against that person or any other person commits the crime of carjacking. An individual also commits carjacking by taking a vehicle from a person by putting that person or any other person in fear.
As of July 1, 2014, the carjacking statute is repealed. A carjacking committed on or after July 1, 2014 will be prosecuted under Indiana’s general robbery statute.
(Ind. Code § § 35-42-5-1 version b, 35-42-5-2 version a)
Indiana categorizes violations of its auto theft statute as Class D felonies, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Under Indiana’s new sentencing laws, a conviction for a Class D felony committed after June 30, 2014 becomes a Level 6 felony and carries a potential maximum sentence of two and one-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The judge may impose punishment for a Class A misdemeanor, but only if the defendant has not had a felony reduced to a Class A misdemeanor within the previous three years.
If the defendant has a prior auto theft conviction, the new auto theft conviction is treated as a Class C felony.
A conviction for receiving stolen auto parts is a Class D felony, unless the defendant has a prior conviction for receiving stolen auto parts or auto theft, in which case the new conviction is a Class C felony.
For Class C felonies committed after June 30, 2014, Indiana law treats the conviction as a Level 5 felony. Level 5 felonies carry a potential maximum sentence of six years in prison and $10,000 fine.
(Ind. Code § §35-43-4-25, 35-50-2-7 version c, 35-50-2-6 version b)
A person who commits criminal conversion by taking a vehicle on joyride commits a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
(Ind. Code § 35-50-3-2)
The crime of unauthorized control of a motor vehicle is a Class D felony (or a Level 6 felony if committed after June 30, 2014) if the person possesses the intent to use the vehicle to assist in a crime.
If the person in fact uses the vehicle to assist in a crime, the offense is a Class C felony. If, after June 30, 2014, the person uses the vehicle to assist in the commission of a felony, the offense is a Level 5 felony.
(Ind. Code § § 35-43-4-3, 35-50-2-7)
A person convicted of conversion for failure to return a rental vehicle commits a Class D felony (or a Level 6 felony if committed after June 30, 2014).
(Ind. Code § 35-43-4-3)
Carjacking is a Class B felony. A Class B felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Following July 1, 2014, carjacking is treated as a form of robbery and punished as a Level 5 felony. If the carjacking involves use of a deadly weapon or results in bodily injury, the crime is a Level 3 felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The crime is a Level 2 felony if it results in serious bodily injury, which carries the same punishment as a Class B felony.
(Ind. Code § § 35-42-5-1, 35-50-2-4.5, 35-50-2-5)
A person charged with a motor vehicle theft offense in Indiana may raise one or more defenses to the charge. For example, a person accused of auto theft or joyriding may assert that the owner gave the defendant permission to take the vehicle. Or, a person charged with unauthorized control of a motor vehicle might argue that the prosecutor has failed to prove that the person had the intent to use the vehicle to assist in the commission of a crime. As with any type of criminal charge, a jury or judge may find the defendant not guilty if the prosecutor fails to prove one or more of the essential elements of an offense.
If you are charged with a motor vehicle theft-related crime, you should speak with an attorney. Under Indiana law, a person convicted of a motor vehicle theft offense faces a possible prison sentence and hefty fine. An attorney will provide you with invaluable guidance while protecting your rights. Retaining a qualified attorney is the most important step you can take to obtain a favorable outcome to your case.