What is Federal Motor Vehicle Theft?
Motor vehicle theft is a crime that is most commonly handled by state courts and state-level prosecutors. It is possible, however, to be prosecuted by the federal government for motor vehicle theft and any related activities. Specific elements are required for a crime to become federal, including if the activity crossed state lines, took place on federal land, or involved a crime against the federal government. Motor vehicle theft typically becomes a federal offense under the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act.
If you are accused of unlawfully transporting a stolen vehicle, it is important to know that the prosecution must show interstate commerce was involved. This requires proving that, at some point, the vehicle moved across state lines. Otherwise, there may be no federal cause of action against you. It is essential to consider this factor when determining whether or not you can be found guilty of a felony transportation charge. If you are facing a federal criminal charge or are being investigated for one, then it is imperative to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately.
What is the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act?
The National Motor Vehicle Theft Act (the “Act”), enacted in 1919, is a federal law created to curb and prevent the interstate transport of stolen vehicles by criminal organizations. It is also known as the Dyer Act, and its provisions are codified in 18 USC § 2311 et seq. Interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle is illegal according to the Act.
In order for anyone to be punished under this law, three elements must be established beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The vehicle was indeed stolen;
- The defendant knew it had been stolen;
- The defendant transported the vehicle across the state or international borders.
In 1945, the federal government added aircraft to the statute. Violations of this law are predicate offenses for federal wiretap violations and violations of the RICO statute. A conviction under any of these federal statutes can lead to serious and life-changing consequences.
What are the Potential Penalties for Federal Motor Vehicle Theft?
The potential penalties for federal motor vehicle theft include fines, restitution, and potential federal prison time. An individual can be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison for a violation of 18 USC § 2312. The restitution that can be ordered by the court is limitless and is dependent on the value of the stolen items and related costs incurred to the victim(s) in the case.
What are Some Common Defenses of a Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Offense?
Some common defenses to a federal motor vehicle theft offense are the lack of interstate commerce, accidental or unknowing possession of the stolen vehicle, and insufficient evidence. The lack of interstate commerce can be used as a defense if it can be proven that the vehicle never moved across state lines after it was stolen. Accidental or unknowing possession may also be used as a defense if it can be demonstrated that the accused did not know they were in possession of a stolen vehicle. Finally, insufficient evidence is another possible defense if there is not enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Cases that are tried under federal law in the United States are processed in federal district court, depending on location. For federal charges in the state of Pennsylvania, cases will be heard in one of the three federal districts. These districts, known as the Central District, Middle District, and Eastern District, are based on geographical location. If your alleged motor vehicle theft took place in either the Central or Eastern District in Pennsylvania, your criminal case would be prosecuted in either the Middle District Court or Eastern District Court, respectively.
What If I Want to Appeal?
If you are not satisfied with a decision made by a federal district court, you may file an appeal in the appropriate federal appellate court. The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals is the court of appeals responsible for handling appeals from the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania. It is important to understand that appeals are based on the record created at the district court and typically don't involve new evidence being heard by the court.
The highest court in the nation is the United States Supreme Court, whose decisions cannot be appealed. The justices at the Supreme Court carefully consider which cases to hear, and there is no legal right to be heard by them. The Supreme Court mainly chooses cases that they believe will have implications on matters of national interest.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you have been charged with a crime such as motor vehicle theft by the federal government, it is essential to have experienced legal representation on your side. An experienced lawyer will be able to properly evaluate your case and decide the best approach for you. Your attorney can also help you determine whether to go to trial or negotiate with the prosecution.
If you need help with this serious matter, reach out to the Lento Law Firm straight away. Our team of professional lawyers is here to answer any questions and provide skilled guidance every step of the way.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being prosecuted for federal motor vehicle theft, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 on contact them online to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help defend your federal case.