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Auto Theft

New Jersey Auto Theft Criminal Defense Attorneys

New Jersey does not have a specific automobile theft law. The theft of a car is similar to the theft of any other type of property. However, a person convicted of auto theft will face enhanced penalties including additional fines and a driver’s license suspension for up to 10 years.

Joyriding v. Auto theft

The key distinction between what constitutes joyriding and what constitutes auto theft is the intention of the person taking the vehicle. Joyriding or the unauthorized use of an automobile occurs when a person takes an automobile with the intention of temporarily depriving the owner of the vehicle. Joyriding is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10.

Auto theft as defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 and occurs when a car is taken with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. In other words, unlike joyriding which is only meant to temporality deprive the owner of his vehicle; auto theft is committed with the intent to keep the car forever.

In addition to the standard theft penalties, a conviction for stealing a car will result in:

  • An additional penalty of $500 and a 1 year license suspension for a first offense
  • An additional penalty of $750 and 2 year license suspension period for a second offense.
  • An additional penalty of $1,000 and a 10 year license suspension period for a third or subsequent offense.

Furthermore, if convicted, a defendant may be required to pay restitution. Normally, for a third-degree crime, restitution cannot exceed $15,000. However, there is an exception to auto theft if it is determined that the car (including its contents) was worth more than $7,500 when stolen and the car is not covered under insurance. The court in its discretion may require the defendant to pay a higher amount of restitution to cover the cost of the car.


A third and probably the most serious type of auto theft is carjacking. Unlike, generic auto theft in which no physical force against the owner is used, carjacking requires force to be used against the owner at the time the vehicle is stolen. As defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2, carjacking is the taking or attempted taking of an automobile, either by infliction or use of bodily force to obtain control of the vehicle, threats, the defendant committed a first or second degree crime during the course of obtaining control of the vehicle, or the defendant took the car while occupants remained in the vehicle. Carjacking is a 1st degree offense and a conviction will result in a prison sentence between 10 and 30 years.

If you were charged with joyriding, carjacking or any auto theft crime in between, choosing the right attorney is crucial to your defense. At LS&P Lawyers our criminal defense attorneys have a wealth of experience representing individuals charged with theft crimes. We don’t just show up to court, we actively advocate on your behalf and challenge each and every piece of the state’s evidence against you. No stone will go unturned. Call us – anytime – to schedule an initial consultation.

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