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Michigan Penal Code Section 356a (MCL 750.356a): Larceny from a Vehicle

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

“Larceny” is another word for stealing. “Larceny from a vehicle” is stealing certain items from a car or trailer.

Five elements comprise larceny from a vehicle, all of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the defendant took a wheel, tire, air bag, catalytic converter, radio, stereo, clock, telephone, computer, or electronic device.
  2. Second, the property was taken without consent.
  3. Third, the property was in or on a motor vehicle, house trailer, trailer, or semitrailer.
  4. Fifth, there was some movement of the property. (It does not matter whether the defendant kept the property.)
  5. Fifth, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

So stealing something from a car will not always constitute “larceny from a vehicle;” you have to steal one of the listed items. The significance is that “larceny from a vehicle” is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Otherwise, larceny is often a misdemeanor punishable by one year or less in jail.

2. Examples

A woman is walking down the street and sees a car parked with its windows down. She peeks inside and sees a cell phone sitting on the passenger’s seat. She reaches in, grabs it, and walks away.

A young man breaks into a junkyard. He finds a car, opens the door, and removes the stereo.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Larceny, MCL 750.356
  2. Larceny from the person, MCL 750.357
  3. Retail fraud, MCL 750.356c, MCL 750.356d.

4. Defenses to Larceny from a Vehicle

Common defenses to larceny from a vehicle include (1) lack of intent, (2) consent, and (3) failure to prove elements.

Take the woman who stole the cell phone. Suppose she said that she took the phone to call a tow truck because her car had broken down and she had forgotten her phone at home. In other words, she was just borrowing the phone; she didn’t intend to “permanently deprive” the owner of the phone. If substantiated, this would be a defense to larceny from a vehicle. As always, the viability of any defense will depend on the context of each case.

Now consider the man who stole the stereo from the junkyard car. Suppose he says that the car had been disassembled at the junkyard and that the stereo was sitting on the ground outside the body of the car. If substantiated, this would mean that the stereo was not “in or on” a motor vehicle. He would still be on the hook for larceny, but he would not be on the hook for larceny from a motor vehicle, a more serious crime.

5. Penalties

Larceny from a motor vehicle is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

6. Criminal Defense for Larceny from a Vehicle

Larceny from a vehicle is a serious felony. And if you’re charged with a series of vehicular larcenies (not uncommon in these types of cases), the prosecutor can ratchet up the charges and make the penalties more severe. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with larceny from a vehicle, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Grabel & Associates has been in business for more than 20 years and has handled hundreds of theft cases. Our highly respected attorneys know what it takes to obtain the best result in your case.

For more information about larceny from a vehicle and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.

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