DC Auto Theft Lawyer

Automobile theft in DC is covered by the unauthorized use of the motor vehicle statute in DC, which prohibits taking, using, or operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. When this is alleged, it is helpful to have a DC auto theft lawyer who can explain the entire process to someone which provides them with a good idea of what to expect as their case progresses. It is also helpful to have a theft lawyer in DC to negotiate on their behalf in reviewing the allegations with a careful eye to uncover defenses to the charge.

Difference Between Auto Theft and Carjacking

Theft of an automobile is punishable under the DC statutes that criminalize unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. For the theft of automobile, the government is required to prove that a person took the vehicle without the owner’s consent and did so for their own use or purpose.

This is different from a carjacking case where the government is required to prove that the person either knowingly or recklessly took immediate possession of someone’s vehicle using force or violence. Because of the force or violence involved in a carjacking case, the potential penalties are more severe than an auto theft case.


When a person is convicted of automobile theft in DC, the maximum potential penalties are five years in prison, a fine of $12,500, or both. A conviction for carjacking carries more severe penalties. The mandatory minimum penalty for carjacking is seven years in prison and the maximum penalty is 21 years in prison, a $75,000 fine, or both. So while each of these are serious offenses that warrant contact with a auto theft lawyer in DC, carjacking is considered to be much more severe.

Impact of Technology

With more advanced tracking systems technology and services such as OnStar, it is easier for law enforcement to track stolen vehicles and once located, they can disable the accelerator or block the ignition.

Other GPS based services even send the vehicle’s owner a text message if the vehicle is moved and law enforcement is alerted more quickly. Car owners can also purchase smart keys, which are unique to a vehicle and cannot be replicated. A smart key is the only single key that can operate the vehicle, which acts as an auto theft prevention tool. The increasing use of other anti-theft devices such as alarms and ignition disablers also act as theft deterrents.

Consulting With a DC Auto Theft Attorney

For a productive initial consultation, it is helpful for a person to have information showing that they had the owner’s consent to operate the automobile, names of any witnesses who could provide information to that effect, and names of any witnesses who were with the person at the time of the alleged theft.

Names of any witnesses or documentation to show that the person was not in the location of the theft when it occurred are always extremely helpful to the person’s auto theft lawyer in DC. Information about the person’s past criminal history or lack of criminal history also helps prepare the lawyer when it comes time to start negotiating with the prosecutor.