A Guide on the Law on Car Theft Charges in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Uh… well… this is awkward.

It is reported that last month, a man who turned up to court in Adelaide facing car theft charges was arrested again after allegedly driving there in another stolen vehicle.

*Cue face palm*

Indeed, on 30 July 2019, a 34-year-old man from Whyalla Norrie, had just attended Christies Beach Magistrates Court in Adelaide’s south on charges of illegally using a motor vehicle.

However, he ended up arrested once again after police carried out a check on the blue Holden sedan he was driving, only to find it had been reported stolen from Blakeview a week earlier.

Police noticed the blue vehicle when the man parked at a fast food restaurant in Christies Beach.

 

South Australia Police Offer Word of Advice to “Catch the Bus” Next Time

While the man and his passenger, a 23-year old woman, were both arrested and charged with another count of illegally using a motor vehicle, South Australia Police also had a word of advice to offer in light of the theft.

“He’d actually stolen a car and turned up to court to face charges of car theft,” Senior Constable Rebecca Stokes said.

“We’re hoping that when his partner attends court next month she catches the bus and we just break this vicious cycle.”

The man was slapped with another count of illegally using a motor vehicle. He was also charged with driving while disqualified.

The woman was granted bail and is set to attend the Christies Beach Magistrates Court at the end of August.

She does not have a driver’s licence.

 

The Incidence of Motor Vehicle Theft in Australia

In Australia, motor vehicle theft is generally understood as taking another person’s motor vehicle without permission and with the intent of permanently depriving that person of the use of their motor vehicle.

Motor vehicles may include, but are not limited to, cars, motorcycles, campervans, trucks, buses and plant/equipment vehicles

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, in recent years, the incidence of motor vehicle theft – those recorded by police – has somewhat declined.

In 2001, approximately 140,000 vehicles were reported stolen, while in 2005 this dropped to 84,900 motor vehicles reported to police as stolen.

In 2011, 55,382 motor vehicle thefts were recorded by police.

In 2017, this dropped to 52,858 vehicles stolen in Australia.

Most vehicles tend to be robbed by young, male drivers, many of whom are joyriders. However, in some cases, vehicles are stolen by organised gangs.

Meanwhile, motor vehicle theft costs Australians approximately $1 billion per year.

A Guide on the Law on Car Theft Charges in NSW

To understand car theft, you must understand what larceny is.

Larceny is a criminal charge with heavy penalties dependant on the value of the stolen thing.

The legislation for the offence of larceny is outlined in section 117 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Larceny is when a person takes and carries something that doesn’t belong to him/her away with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it, without the owner’s consent.

In NSW, the penalty for stealing a motor vehicle or vessel carries up to 10-years prison under section 154F Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Section 267 Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) allows the charge to be dealt with in the Local Court. If a person is sentenced for this offence in the Local Court, the Local Court can impose a maximum penalty of up to 2-years prison (not 10-years) or a $11,000 fine.

Car theft is also known as stealing a motor vehicle, which occurs if you take and drive it away with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it without consent- in circumstances it wasn’t your vehicle, and you weren’t entitled to possess it.

A court will find an accused person ‘not guilty’ of car theft if a defence applies to the case, including:

  • Where the accused person took and drove the vehicle with the honest belief that he/she had a legal entitlement to justify taking and carrying it away.
  • Where the accused person did this as a necessity or duress.
  • Where the accused person didn’t intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle at the time of taking and driving or taking it away.
  • Where the accused person didn’t actual carry or drove the vehicle away.

 

Here, a ‘motor vehicle’ means a vehicle that is built to be propelled by a motor that forms part of the vehicle, where ‘vehicle’ is understood as:

  1. Any description of vehicle on wheels (including a light rail service) but not including any other vehicle used on a railway or tramway, or
  2. Any description of tracked vehicle (such as a bulldozer), or any description of vehicle that moves on revolving runners inside endless tracks, that is not used exclusively on a railway or tramway, or
  3. Any other description of vehicle prescribed by the statutory rules.

‘Vessel’ refers to water craft of any description that is used or capable of being used as a method of transportation on water.

 

Keep your Vehicle Safe – 4 Ways to Prevent your Car from Being Stolen

While most of us don’t think about car theft prevention until it’s too late, often believing it’s something that happens to other people, learning how to prevent your car from being stolen is knowledge you probably need.

Here are four ways to prevent your car from being stolen:

  1. Don’t forget to lock your car: It might sound obvious, but locking your car is the simplest way to protect it. It’s also quite simple to forget to do it. So, whether your vehicle is parked at home, the grocery store, or in long-term parking at the airport, remember to lock it. This will help to protect an opportunistic burglar from stealing it or anything valuable in it.
  2. Be smart about where you park your vehicle: When possible, make sure to park your car in a well-lit area or in the vicinity of a security camera if you’re in a parking garage or other facility. Additionally, try to avoid dark or remote locations where no one would be able to see or hear your car being broken into.
  3. Install an additional lock: Installing an additional locking device such as a wheel lock, pedal lock or steering wheel lock makes it extremely difficult for a thief to drive off with your car. Moreover, simply seeing the locks will deter many thieves from making an attempt.
  4. Remove all valuables from your car

This is more about preventing potential thieves from breaking into your car in the first place. If a thief can see something they fancy the look of through your car windows, it’s quite likely that they’ll break into your car to nab it. So, remove all valuables from your car when you’re not in it – never leave items such as mobile phones, laptops, bags, sunglasses or other items of importance in sight in an unattended vehicle.

Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia are based in Sydney and Parramatta who specialise in complex stealing and larceny charges across all courts.

Call us to arrange a free appointment 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

About Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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