In Michigan, it is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison to “wilfully and without authority, take possession of and drive or take away… any motor vehicle, belonging to another,” or to assist or participate in doing so. In addition to potential imprisonment, a conviction for auto theft in Michigan can bring a lifetime of serious consequences.
If you have been or expect to be charged with auto theft in Michigan, then you need skilled criminal defense counsel to protect your rights, your family, and your livelihood. Contact Michigan Defense Law right away to schedule a free consultation.
Michigan Defense Law is a criminal defense law practice based in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Our sole focus is on defending the rights of the criminally accused in Michigan courts. Attorneys Paul Tafelski and David Goukassian handle diverse criminal matters related to motor vehicles, from OWI/DUI and CDL offenses to serious auto theft felonies.
We believe every person accused of committing a crime in Michigan deserves a skilled, aggressive, principled legal defense. Some of our clients have been wrongfully accused. Others simply made a mistake or acted out of emotion or desperation. Whatever your circumstances, when your life and livelihood are on the line because the prosecuting attorney’s office has you in its sights, your best defense is to speak with an experienced, local Michigan criminal defense counsel right away.
Felony Auto Theft and Its Defenses
Michigan’s auto theft statute, quoted above, covers a very broad (too broad, in our view) range of conduct, much of which could be entirely innocent. To begin with, the statute criminalizes both taking possession of a car, and driving away with it, willfully and without authority. That means a person could theoretically be convicted of stealing a car without ever having gotten behind the wheel. The statute also does not require the prosecuting attorney to prove the accused did not, or did not intend to, return the motor vehicle. So, it is possible to be convicted of felony auto theft in Michigan even if you borrow a car and return it.
Because Michigan’s felony auto theft statute is so broad, anyone accused of violating it needs skilled legal representation to help gather and present evidence of your factual innocence. These may include:
- Proving you had authority, or reasonably believed you had authority, to use the car, such as in the case of borrowing a car belonging to a family member or friend.
- Proving you actually own the car, such as when someone makes a criminal complaint in connection with a dispute over a car sale transaction.
- Proving that you did not, in fact, “take possession” of the car, such as when someone has falsely or mistakenly accused you of using threats or coercion to assert control over their property.
- Proving that you did not know a car belonged to someone other than the person operating it, such as when you are accused of assisting in a felony auto theft because you were a passenger in a stolen car.
In addition to these and many other potential factual defenses, a skilled criminal lawyer in Michigan will also typically explore what are referred to as legal defenses, such as constitutional violations by the police or prosecutor in the course of investigating or charging the offense. At Michigan Defense Law, we try to leave no stone unturned in investigating potential defenses for our clients accused of serious auto theft crimes.
Local Attorneys, Local Knowledge
When considering who to hire to defend you against a Michigan felony auto theft charge, keep in mind the importance of hiring an attorney with local knowledge. People sometimes feel tempted to spend big money on a lawyer from down Route 75 in Detroit, but that could be a serious mistake. There are plenty of great lawyers in Detroit, no question about it. But they rarely have local knowledge about the rhythms and priorities of the Oakland County criminal justice system that can make a big difference in the success of a defense.
In Bloomfield Hills, for example, hiring defense counsel from Michigan Defense Law gives you the advantage of an attorney who has a day-to-day working knowledge of the criminal legal process in the Oakland County District and Circuit Courts, the priorities and sensitivities of Oakland County prosecutors, and the standard operating procedures of the Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills police departments.
That local knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the courts and personalities here in Bloomfield Hills serves to benefit our clients. It facilitates communication with law enforcement when we need to find out where someone is being held after an arrest. It enables effective negotiation with prosecuting attorneys over big and small issues, from whether our client will be released on bail or bond, to what charges the prosecuting attorney chooses to pursue, and what resolution to a criminal matter is fair and appropriate. And it helps us to develop and frame defenses and arguments in a manner we know may best resonate with Oakland County judges and juries.
Most importantly, we have a strong reputation for representing their clients with the utmost integrity and candor. Because the local legal community knows our track record as zealous, honest, ethical lawyers, we are often able to achieve better outcomes for our clients than lawyers who are an “unknown quantity” in Oakland County. This can be especially important in felony auto theft matters where we need to convince a prosecutor, judge, or jury of the strength of our client’s factual or legal defense.
Serious Defense for Felony Auto Theft in Michigan
If you are accused or charged with felony auto theft in Michigan, don’t risk your life and livelihood on just any criminal defense lawyer. Contact Michigan Defense Law online or by phone at (248) 221-1060 to schedule a free, no obligation 20-minute consultation. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can help protect your rights.