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What Are The Penalties For Larceny From A Vehicle In Michigan?

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Criminal Law |

 

Most people generally expect that their vehicles will be left alone when parked in a public area.  The wheels, tires, hood ornaments and radios are connected to the vehicle and take some effort to remove.  Even loose items inside the vehicle are often expected to be secured while the vehicle is locked.  When someone does steal equipment attached to the vehicle or breaks into the passenger compartment or trunk to take loose items, it shatters the sense of security that was expected by the vehicle owner.  As a result, the Michigan Legislature has created tough penalties for anyone brazen enough to commit a theft from any type of automobile, truck or trailer.  A defendant convicted by a judge or jury of larceny from a vehicle can face substantial fines, lengthy probation and even incarceration in state prison.

An individual is guilty of larceny from a vehicle, contrary to MCL 750.356a, if the prosecutor can prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 23.5):

  • First, that the defendant took a wheel, tire, air bag, catalytic converter, radio, stereo, clock, telephone, computer or electronic device OR that the defendant enters or breaks into the vehicle to steal or unlawfully remove other property.
  • Second, that the property was taken without consent.
  • Third, that when it was taken, the property was in or on a motor vehicle, house trailer, trailer or semitrailer.
  • Fourth, that there was some movement of the property. It does not matter whether the defendant actually kept the property.
  • Fifth, that at the time the property was taken, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

If the property stolen or unlawfully removed from in or on any vehicle was any wheel, tire, air bag, catalytic converter, radio, stereo, clock, telephone, computer, or other electronic device, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by a fine up to $10,000.00 or up to 5 years in state prison, or both.  MCL 750.356a(1).

If any other property was stolen or unlawfully removed from entering or breaking into a vehicle, the penalties are as follows:

  • If the amount of the property taken was less than $200.00, then the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $500.00 (or 3x the amount of the destruction or injury, whichever is greater) and/or up to 93 days in jail, or both. MCL 750.356a(2)(a).
  • If the amount of the property taken is $200.00 or more but less than $1,000.00 OR the individual commits the crime of larceny from a vehicle under $200.00 and the individual has a prior conviction for committing or attempting to commit larceny from a vehicle, THEN the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $2,000.00 (or 3x the amount of the destruction or injury, whichever is greater) and/or up to 1 year in jail, or both. MCL 750.356a(2)(b).
  • If the amount of the property taken is $1,000.00 or more but less than $20,000.00 OR the individual commits the crime of larceny from a vehicle between $200.00 and less than $1,000.00 and has one or more prior convictions for committing or attempting to commit larceny from a vehicle, then the individual is guilty of a felony conviction punishable by a fine up to $10,000.00 (or 3x the amount of the destruction or injury, whichever is greater) and/or up to 5 years in prison, or both. MCL 750.356a(2)(c).
  • If the amount of the property taken is $20,000.00 or more OR the individual commits the crime of larceny in a building between $1,000.00 and less than $20,000.00 and has two or more prior convictions for committing or attempting to commit larceny from a vehicle, then the individual is guilty of a felony conviction punishable by a fine up to $15,000.00 (or 3x the amount of the destruction or injury, whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, or both. MCL 750.356a(2)(d).
  • “The values of property stolen or unlawfully removed in separate incidents pursuant to a scheme or course of conduct within any 12-month period may be aggregated to determine the total value of property stolen or unlawfully removed.” MCL 750.356a(4).

In addition, a person who EITHER steals or unlawfully removes from in or on any vehicle was any wheel, tire, air bag, catalytic converter, radio, stereo, clock, telephone, computer, or other electronic device OR steals or unlawfully removes any other property by breaking and entering a vehicle AND who breaks, tears, cuts, or otherwise damages any part of the motor vehicle, house trailer, trailer, or semitrailer is guilty of a felony conviction punishable by a fine up to $10,000.00 or up to 5 years in state prison, or both, regardless of the value of the property.  MCL 750.356a(3).

The item that is taken does not have to be permanently attached to the vehicle.  In People v Miller, 288 Mich App 207; 795 NW2d 156 (2010), the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that the larceny from a vehicle statute applies when the defendant took a cellular phone that was sitting on the seat of a truck unattached to the vehicle.  “The fact that wheels, tires, air bags, and catalytic converters are generally on or attached to a vehicle does not by itself prevent the application of MCL 750.365a(1) to other enumerated items that are not generally attached to but are merely included within the space of the vehicle.”  Id at 211.

If you are charged with larceny in a vehicle, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer in your corner to protect your rights.  You may able to assert defenses at trial that can lead to an acquittal.  For example, a person cannot commit a larceny if he or she can prove that the property taken was his or her own property.  Likewise, a person cannot be convicted of larceny if they did not have the intent to steal (e.g. the item taken was accidentally placed in the defendant’s handbag or purse by someone else).  Even if the evidence against you is strong, an attorney may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.  If applicable, a person under 24 years old convicted of larceny from a vehicle may be able to avoid a criminal conviction by successfully completing the requirements of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”).

If you or a loved one is charged with any crime or need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

 

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