How is Auto Theft Prosecuted in Oklahoma?

auto theft defense attorney tulsaIn Oklahoma, auto theft can be charged in several ways. Depending upon the circumstances, auto theft can be charged as auto larceny, carjacking, joyriding, or — under the Oklahoma motor vehicle code — the illegal possession of a motor vehicle. These statutes vary widely in terms of applicable circumstances and punishments.

Auto Larceny

In Oklahoma, auto theft or auto larceny is defined as a person who steals an aircraft, automobile, or other vehicle — including construction or farm equipment. The crime is a felony punishable by 3 to 20 years in prison, a fine of three times the value of the property stolen (but not more than $500,000), and restitution to the victim. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1720.

Oklahoma’s motor vehicle code also addresses the unauthorized receipt, possession, concealment, sale, or dispossession of vehicle or implement of husbandry (Okla. Stat. tit. 47 § 4-103). Unlawful receipt or possession of a motor vehicle is a felony even if the person in possession of the vehicle cannot be proven to have stolen it. Likewise, in cases where someone might unlawfully use a vehicle without receiving it or possessing it, unlawful use of a motor vehicle is also felony. (Okla. Stat. tit. 47 § 4-103).

Carjacking is a Robbery Using Force or Fear

An even more serious charge than auto theft is carjacking. It is a form of robbery. In Oklahoma, robbery is defined as:

  • the wrongful taking of personal property belonging to another,
  • from that person or in his or her immediate presence,
  • against his or her will,
  • accomplished through the use of force or fear.

(See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 791.)

Robbery can be charged in the first or second degree.

In Oklahoma, first-degree robbery is defined as using any of the following while committing the theft: inflicting serious bodily injury upon the victim, threatening a person with immediate serious bodily injury, putting the victim in fear of immediate serious bodily injury, or threatening or committing a felony upon the victim. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 797.

All other robberies are charged in the second degree.

Most carjacking incidents involve the threat of bodily injury to the victim and as such, are often charged as robbery in the first degree. Weapons are often used in carjackings to threaten the victims. Penalties are harsh for robbery convictions. Robbery in the first degree is a felony punishable by at least 10 years in prison. Okla. Stat. tit.21 § 798.

When a dangerous weapon is used in the commission of a robbery, whether the firearm is loaded or not, even when the weapon isn’t real but only looks as if it is real, its use in the commission of a robbery opens the perpetrator to the possibility of life in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 801.

In addition, if a deadly weapon is used in the commission of a carjacking, the crime may be subject to the 85% rule. In Oklahoma, if convicted, the perpetrator would have to serve 85% of his or her prison sentence before becoming eligible for release. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 13.1.

Joyriding

In Oklahoma, joyriding is defined as driving or attempting to drive another person’s car without consent. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1787. Joyriding is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $100 and $500, up to a year in the county jail, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1788.

It hinges on a lack of intent to keep the car and is thus not technically a theft charge. Joyriding is the least serious of the crimes associated with auto theft. Questions of permission and intent are important in these cases and should be explored with your criminal defense attorney.

Unauthorized Use of Vehicle

In Oklahoma, the Motor Vehicle Code also prohibits illegal receipt, possession, sale, concealment, or dispossession of a motor vehicle. The statute defines the theft as one who takes, uses, or drives a vehicle with the intent to deprive the owner. This crime is committed when the consent of the owner and or entitlement to possession is absent.

Unauthorized use of a vehicle is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to two years in prison, or both. Okla. Stat. 47 § 4-102.

The motor vehicle code also prohibits falsely reporting a vehicle as stolen, and prescribes misdemeanor penalties.

Law enforcement officers are authorized to seize suspected stolen vehicles.

Free Consultation: Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney

In most cases, if you are being charged with auto theft under any of these statutes, you could lose your freedom for a long time. You want to make sure that you a skilled Tulsa criminal defense lawyer who will work hard to protect your freedom. Our initial consultation is free.

For help, call the Wirth Law Office-Tulsa at 918-879-1681 or toll free at 1-888-Wirth-Law (1-888-947-8452). You can also submit the question form at the top right of this page.

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