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Can auto theft in Massachusetts be charged as a federal offense?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When a person is arrested in Boston or the nearby areas of Massachusetts, they should think about the possible long-term consequences if they are convicted. Not only can they be incarcerated and fined but they could have issues with their entire lives including schooling, possibly entering the military and getting certain jobs. This is true even if the accusations are not linked to violence or drugs, but for something like theft.

Auto theft is quite common and it is frequently people who do not think it is that serious who are arrested for it. However, depending on the situation, stealing a vehicle could escalate from state charges to federal charges. Knowing when the charges for auto theft can reach the federal level is important. It is essential to have help with mounting a defense.

When is auto theft a federal offense?

There are several situations that could lead to auto theft in Massachusetts being categorized as a federal crime. Interstate or foreign travel with a stolen vehicle is a federal offense.

For example, if the vehicle was taken for a ride by a 20 year old and the accused drove across state lines – wittingly or not – they could suddenly be charged with a federal offense. There are other activities with a stolen automobile that can warrant federal charges such as changing or removing its VIN number.

If a person is accused of federal violations with auto theft, it is wise to note that even if the state authorities cannot prosecute a case, there are “exceptional circumstances” that might spark a federal prosecution. An example includes the vehicle being used to commit a separate felony with penalties that would be less than the “Dyer Act,” which is also known as the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act regarding interstate transportation of the stolen vehicle.

Others include the vehicle being destroyed, sent to a foreign country, stripped or abused; the theft indicating a continuing pattern; or the theft of a heavy commercial vehicle like a truck, bulldozer or tractor.

The law says that the following should not be prosecuted federally: younger people taking the vehicle for a joyride; acts committed by juveniles under 18; or if the accused is 18 or over but younger than 21 and is not seen as a repeat offender. Even with these rules, however, people can get caught up in a large investigation and not know the scope of the charges that can be lodged.

Auto theft allegations could reach the federal level and legal advice is important

Auto theft can be a problem for anyone, but if it is a person from a lower-income family, they may be unaware of the potential consequences for an arrest and conviction of auto theft, nor might they know how the crime itself could be categorized as a federal offense, making the possible consequences far worse than they would be for a state crime.

The criminal justice system can seem unfair, especially to those who are not of substantial means and do not fully comprehend what they are facing. From the outset, it is essential for those who are accused of auto theft and are dealing with the possibility of federal charges to have a calm and soothing voice to serve as their advocate.

Working-class people can have their entire lives upended by something that should probably be treated less seriously than it would if it was part of an elaborate auto theft ring with multitudes of other criminal activities involved.

Whether the case can be settled with a plea bargain, the charges can be reduced or they may be acquitted, they should understand the importance of an experienced lawyer to assist them in fighting the charges.

Having assistance from those who take the accused’s cause as their own is key. There are many people who tend to fall through the cracks of the justice system. This is exacerbated when the crimes are federal offenses. An effective criminal defense often depends on the right legal support for a satisfactory and even positive outcome.