Auto Theft Laws in Indiana

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.

Motor Vehicle Theft

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)

Joyriding & Unauthorized Control of a Motor Vehicle

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)

Failure to Return a Rental Vehicle

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)

Carjacking

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As of July 1, 2014, the carjacking statute is repealed.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)

Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft

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)

Penalties for Joyriding & Unauthorized Control of a Motor Vehicle

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)

Penalties for Failure to Return a Rental Vehicle

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)

Penalties for Carjacking

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)

Defenses

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.

Consult An Attorney

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.

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