If someone accuses you of stealing, you will benefit from a serious, proactive approach. At the same time, you should also know that some theft charges pose more severe consequences than others upon conviction.
As you might imagine, motor vehicle theft is one of the most seriously punished property crimes in all 50 states. However, under certain circumstances, you could face a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony charge for taking a vehicle you do not own in Michigan.
When is auto theft a misdemeanor?
Taking or using a vehicle without permission may be charged as a misdemeanor in Michigan if you prove you never intended to steal it. However, a conviction on this less serious theft charge could still mean up to two years of imprisonment and hundreds of dollars in fines.
With guidance, you may have pretty good odds of avoiding conviction if you can show you have general authority to drive the automobile (through employment, for example), even if you did not get consent for the specific incident.
When is it a felony?
The law makes it clear that anyone who takes possession of and drives away a motor vehicle without consent or authority can expect a felony charge. You could spend up to five years in a Michigan prison if convicted.
Further, all those involved in the theft will likely face the same or similar charges. In other words, you could endure a life-changing prison sentence even if you were not the person who actually took the automobile.
In many situations, prosecutors have a weaker case than defendants may believe. Instead of assuming you have no way to defend against your charges, seek legal guidance. A knowledgeable legal opinion may help you identify defense options you might otherwise overlook.