Building a Maryland Auto Theft Defense
Before creating a defense of auto theft in Maryland, it is important to understand what constitutes as theft. Theft is the taking away and carrying off of the property of another person with the intent to permanently deprive them of the property. The same can be said for an auto theft, but the item taken is a motor vehicle. The state could proceed under the general theft provisions or the state could proceed specifically under the provisions for the charge of motor vehicle theft. The state may make that determination based on the value of the item being taken.
If you have been accused of auto theft in Maryland, an experienced theft attorney can help you prepare your defense. A local lawyer can help you gather any and all information necessary for a successful defense of auto theft in Maryland.
In terms of the initial steps that an attorney will take when preparing a defense strategy for a Maryland auto theft charge, a lawyer will take the general step of obtaining information about the defendant themselves. The attorney will want to completely understand the person’s background, their education level, and whether they have any mental health issues or cognitive issues that may prevent them from understanding what is going on.
The attorney will especially need information about whether a person is abusing drugs or alcohol and if that played any role in what took place. The defendant will then have to walk the attorney through everything that happened in the moments before their interaction with the police.
Important information for the defense would be if the defendant knew the owner of the motor vehicle, how the vehicle came to be in their possession, whether there was a previous agreement about the use of the motor vehicle, and similar elements. This narrative must be factually specific with as much information as possible about what happened that caused the owner to allege that their motor vehicle had been taken.
Preparing a Defense Strategy
The best place to start a defense of auto theft in Maryland is to understand exactly what the defendant is charged with. They should review all of the evidence the state alleges they have to support a conviction. To be convicted of an offense, the state must provide proof of every element of that offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the attorney must pay ample attention to each element.
For example, there is a big difference between taking an automobile from someone without their permission and someone being loaned or given a car and the parties having a disagreement as to the returning of the car. There are many different factual scenarios where a complicated relationship between parties can lead to a charge of theft. That does not mean that every single time a charge is made there is actually a theft. It is important to understand the facts of the case and get a full picture from the client about everything that happened.
Many attorneys will get a full biography of their client, such as where they went to school, their education level, their work history, etc. All of those things can potentially be really important to the case, particularly in mitigating a sentence if the person is found guilty.
Possible Probation or Reduced Sentencing
It is possible the state will determine that they do not have a strong enough case, and they might want to negotiate a situation where the defendant agrees to pay restitution or some other similar remedy to avoid conviction. With probation, the court considers every defendant as an individual. For someone who is young and has no prior criminal record, the likelihood of them getting a suspended sentence and a period of probation is very high.
If a person who is charged has a prior record or has a prior theft, that individual is more likely to face jail time. Many judges have their own individual triggers. Some types of cases will really irritate particular judges. For some judges, they are particularly bothered by theft because they see it as completely avoidable.
It is really important to know the judge and know how they feel about particular offenses to determine whether the judge assigned the right judge to proceed in front of. Sometimes the defendant can take certain actions to put them in a better position if they are going to be sentenced by that judge.
Role of an Attorney
The provision is slightly different if the state chooses to proceed with the more specific charge of motor vehicle theft. The first thing to determine would be whether the thing taken meets the definition of a motor vehicle. If the state proceeds with the motor vehicle theft law, they have to specifically prove that the defendant knowingly and willfully took the motor vehicle out of the owner’s lawful custody, control or use without their consent.
If there truly was some sort of mistake or misunderstanding on the part of the defendant, that could be considered a potential defense of auto theft in Maryland.