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Auto theft: What does it mean, how can you prevent it?

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

244 Brighton Avenue, Suite 105
Allston MA 02134


Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: (617) 254-8001

Police in Charlotte charged a valet service employee with auto theft after they learned that he allegedly drove and used customers’ cars for personal use. The issue was brought to the attention of authorities After the vehicle owners  who returned from their trips filed reports when they found significant damage and items missing from their cars. This incident plays to a vehicle owner’s worst fears and makes all of us think twice about leaving our vehicles with a valet service. However, drivers should rest assured because auto theft is considered a serious felony in many states and in some instances may even lead to revocation of the alleged person’s license.

Auto theft is a serious and far-reaching crime that affects us all. Anyone who owns a vehicle can be a victim of auto theft. As reported by the FBI, in 2010, there were an estimated 737, 142 thefts of motor vehicles nationwide. In that same year, more than $4.5 billion was lost nationwide to motor vehicle thefts. Nearly, 73% of the cars stolen in 2010 were automobiles and automobile accessories. Over the past year, over 30,000 cars were stolen in Massachussetts alone.

Auto theft is defined as theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle.  Under Massachusetts law, a person can be charged with auto theft if they:

(a) steal a motor vehicle;

(b) maliciously damage another person’s motor vehicle;

(c) buy, receive, possess, conceal, or obtains control of a motor vehicle, knowing or having reason to know the same to have been stolen; or,

(d) whoever takes a motor vehicle without the authority of the owner and steals from it any of its parts or accessories.

In Massachusetts, auto theft may be punished by imprisonment for up to 15 years and a fine  of up to $15000. In some instances, a person convicted of auto theft may also have their license revoked.

In Massachusetts, the average citizen also has a duty to report anyone or any knowledge they may have about someone who commits autotheft. Under Massachusetts’s code, if you are a resident of the state and have knowledge of someone who is stealing automobiles, you have an obligation to report this information to authorities. The Governer’s office has instated a toll free confidential hotline that gives you the opportunity to help stop auto thieves.

Tips when leaving car with valet services:

To ensure that you do not end up a victim of auto theft, here are some steps you can take to protect your property:

  1. Read the signs posted by the valet services. Many parking garages post signs visibly stating that they will not take responsibility of items, which are stolen or lost, in the garage.
  2. Do not leave valuables in the car. Many of us are tempted to leave sunglasses, cash, and other property inside our car. When you know you will be parking in a garage ahead of time, try to leave your valuables at home or remember to take them as you leave your car with valet.
  3. Never leave valuables in the trunk of your car. Remember, you are leaving your car with total strangers and they have the keys. You can trust that your car will remain safe, however, many car garages do not take responsibility if items go missing from your trunk.

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