Auto Theft and Auto Burglary in Seattle
by Lewis & Laws
Auto Theft and Auto Burglary in Seattle
According to the Seattle Times, nearly half of all Seattle property crimes involve a vehicle, and, in fact, Seattle has one of the highest rates of property crime among U.S. cities.
In 2017, there were more than 12,000 "car prowls" in Seattle, and more than 3,000 stolen cars. When you add in other types of motor vehicle theft such as theft of license plates, theft of auto parts and theft of auto accessories, there were about 17,400 such thefts in Seattle in 2017—or almost half of the roughly 38,000 reported property crimes in the city.
A car prowl is the theft of items from inside the vehicle, and often one person or a small group of people will break into a number of cars in the same area.
Although car thefts usually target higher-end vehicles or vehicles which are known to have a good resale value, car prowls do not depend on the type of vehicle, only what is left inside the vehicle.
Auto property crimes in the state of Washington and Seattle usually carry fairly stiff penalties, and even a broken window and the theft of something inside the vehicle could be charged as a serious misdemeanor or a felony. "Unauthorized use" of a vehicle is always charged as a felony, even if you just took the car for a spin around the block.
Car Prowls in Seattle
Car prowling is breaking into a vehicle with the purpose of committing a crime—such as stealing something inside the vehicle.
First-degree car prowling occurs in a vehicle which has sleeping quarters or could be lived in—like a boat or an RV and is a Class C felony. A third offense of car prowling will also be charged as a Class C felony. A Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Second-degree felony occurs in a vehicle which does not have sleeping quarters and could not be lived in and is a gross misdemeanor. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine as large as $5,000.
Auto Theft in Seattle
Taking a motor vehicle without permission is a felony in the state of Washington. You could be charged with a first-degree or second-degree offense if you took a motor vehicle without the owner's permission.
A charge of taking a motor vehicle without permission in the first degree means you took or drove away an automobile belonging to another person without that person's consent, and then you did one or more of the following:
- Altered the vehicle to change its appearance, including changing, covering up or removing the VIN number;
- Removed parts of the vehicle to sell those parts;
- Engaged in conspiracy for the purpose of stealing motor vehicles to sell for profit;
- Exported or attempted to export the vehicle across a state line or a national border with the intent to profit from the export, or
- You intended to sell the vehicle.
If convicted of taking a motor vehicle without permission in the first degree, you could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison and/or face a fine as high as $20,000.
Taking a motor vehicle without permission in the second degree could be charged if you either took or drove away in a vehicle without permission from the owner, or even rode in an automobile which you were aware had been taken unlawfully. Punishments for second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission are up to five years in prison, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Getting Help From Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys at Lewis & Laws, PLLC
If you have been charged with auto theft in Seattle, your Seattle criminal defense attorney could defend you by showing evidence you did not take the vehicle unlawfully, or that you unintentionally took the vehicle—you were unaware the owner did not want you driving the vehicle.
To have first-degree auto theft charges decreased to second-degree auto theft, it will be necessary for your Seattle criminal defense attorney to show you did not engage in any of the activities required for the more serious charge.
Whether you are charged with auto theft or car prowling, it is essential that you speak to an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights and your future are protected.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, such as car theft, in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Everett, or anywhere in the state of Washington, the consequences could destroy your entire future. Contacting an experienced Seattle criminal defense lawyer is the key to winning the battle and fighting these serious charges. The experienced lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!