Philadelphia Unauthorized Use of an Automobile Defense Attorneys
Philadelphia Theft Lawyers Fighting for You
If you are charged with Unauthorized Use of an Automobile, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers will fight for your rights at trial or on appeal. Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of misdemeanor cases in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, and we can help with all types of theft and unauthorized use of an automobile charges. We are dedicated, understanding defense attorneys who will use our skill and expertise to help you get the best possible outcome when dealing with criminal charges. We offer a free criminal defense strategy session to every potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with one of our award-winning defense attorneys today.
Unauthorized Use of an Automobile - 18 Pa.C.S. § 3928
Unauthorized Use of an Automobile ("UUA") is frequently charged along with Receiving Stolen Property (F3) when the defendant is accused of driving or being in possession of a stolen car. Although Receiving Stolen Property is a felony, UUA is a misdemeanor of the second degree. However, it is still a serious charge because it can be considered a theft crime and it can result in a permanent criminal conviction. Unlike felony Receiving Stolen Property, however, it can be be partially removed from a defendant's criminal record after ten years by filing for a Limited Access Order under the new expungement law.
It is important to note that UUA does not only apply to cars; it also applies to other motor vehicles like motorcycles and dirt bikes. Unlike other theft and receiving stolen property charges, the gradation of UUA does not vary based on the value of the item stolen. It is always a misdemeanor of the second degree punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.
Elements of Unauthorized Use of an Automobile
UUA does not require the Commonwealth to show that the defendant actually knew or should have known that the vehicle in question was stolen or that they did not have permission to drive it. Instead, the prosecution must be able to show that the defendant acted recklessly. This means that the defendant consciously disregarded a known risk that he or she did not have permission to drive the vehicle. This is a lower standard than the knowledge standard required by the Receiving Stolen Property statute, making it a little bit easier for prosecutors to prove UUA charges.
The statute itself is silent as to the required mental state. It does not provide for knowledge or recklessness in the plain text of the statute. However, Pennsylvania appellate courts have read in the mens rea requirement of recklessness because strict liability for criminal conduct is strongly disfavored under Pennsylvania law. Although this standard is easier to prove for the Commonwealth than actual knowledge, the statute still requires the Commonwealth to show more than just that the defendant drove someone else's car without permission. The Commonwealth must show that the defendant had some reason to suspect that he or she did not have permission to drive the vehicle. It is also a defense to UUA that the defendant reasonably believed the owner of the vehicle would have consented to its use.
Defenses to Unauthorized Use of an Automobile Charges
There are a number of potential defenses to Unauthorized Use of an Automobile charges. The Commonwealth must prove each element of the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to prove a violation of the UUA statute, the Commonwealth must show beyond a reasonable doubt both that the defendant used the automobile and that the defendant acted with the requisite mens rea. For UUA charges, the Commonwealth must prove the mens rea element of recklessness, and the caselaw is clear that simply driving a car which turns out to be reported stolen is not automatically reckless.
Therefore, our top-rated criminal defense attorneys have had great success in convincing prosecutors to drop charges pre-trial and in winning acquittals at trial in the Municipal Court by showing that the defendant did not have the requisite mental state. In other cases, we may be able to show that our client was not the person who actually used or drove the automobile.
We Can Help With Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and UUA Charges
The award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys of Goldstein Mehta LLC have had significant success handling all types of theft cases, and we have won numerous UUA cases. We recognize the issues in a stolen car case and strive to provide the best possible defense. UUA cases are often heard in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and our criminal defense lawyers have represented thousands of clients in that venue. If you or a loved one are facing Unauthorized Use of an Automobile or other theft charges charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, call 267-225-2545 today for a complimentary 15-minute criminal defense strategy session. We can help you fight back against unfair criminal charges.
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The Unauthorized Use of an Automobile Statute
§ 3928. Unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles.
(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree if he operates the automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle of another without consent of the owner.
(b) Defense.--It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor reasonably believed that the owner would have consented to the operation had he known of it.