A “motor vehicle master key” means “a key which is designed to open locks on more than one motor vehicle but excludes keys supplied with the motor vehicle by the manufacturer or dealer or the exact duplicate of such keys, and excludes keys supplied with replacement locks or the exact duplicate of such keys.” MCL 750.414a(b). This type of key is generally reserved for automobile professionals and locksmiths for opening the door and starting the ignition on multiple vehicles. In the wrong hands, this key can be used for criminal activity. Car thieves have found ways to obtain or even make these master keys to assist them in the commission of stealing cars. As a result, the possession of motor vehicle master keys is regulated by state and federal law.
In Michigan, there is a general prohibition that most people cannot possess a motor vehicle master key. MCL 750.414a(a). This does not apply to the following persons:
- “Keys in the possession of garage mechanics, parking lot attendants or others engaged in the business of repairing or storing motor vehicles.” MCL 750.414a(c)(1).
- “Keys in the possession of law enforcement officers.” MCL 750.414a(c)(2).
- “Keys in the possession of locksmiths, key makers or other persons engaged in the business of making, altering, duplicating or repairing locks or keys.” MCL 750.414a(c)(3).
A person who unlawfully possesses a motor vehicle master key is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. MCL 750.414a(d).
Under federal law, “any motor vehicle master key, any pattern, impression, or mold from which a motor vehicle master key may be made, or any advertisement for the sale of any such key, pattern, impression, or mold, is nonmailable matter and shall not be carried or delivered by mail.” 39 U.S.C. §3002(a). A person who violates this section is liable to civil penalties pursued by the U.S. Postal Service in federal court.
If actual vehicle theft had occurred, then a person possessing a motor vehicle master key is likely to become the number one suspect. Stealing motor vehicles or opening a motor vehicle to steal the contents inside are serious felonies that can result in fines, probation, or even incarceration in jail or state prison. You should not expect prosecutors and judges to take these matters lightly. Anyone accused of possessing a motor vehicle master key or any other crime should get a skilled criminal defense lawyer in their corner right away. Even if the evidence against you is strong, good legal counsel can help negotiate a favorable plea resolution that can minimize the possible legal consequences and even avoid being locked up.
If you or a loved one are accused of any crime and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.