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Arizona Law on Grand Theft Auto

Arizona’s laws on what most people think of as “grand theft auto” takes the catchiness out of the popular video game’s namesake. Instead, Arizona refers to “Theft or Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation.” These laws apply to the unauthorized use or theft of any vehicle.

Arizona law breaks down this type of theft of a vehicle into two categories. The two categories are distinguished by the driver’s intentions. In other words, did the driver intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, or just temporarily?

Unauthorized Use of Means of Transport (A.R.S. § 13-1803)

Unauthorized use of means of transportation applies when a person uses or controls a vehicle without authorization but does not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. There are two ways to commit unauthorized use of means of transportation.

The first occurs when a person knowingly takes unauthorized control of another person’s vehicle. The law defines control as acting “to exclude others from using their property except on the defendant’s own terms.” So a joy ride or a family member borrowing a car without permission can fall into this category. Using someone else’s vehicle without permission is a class 5 felony, punishable by .5 – 2.5 years in prison.

The second way of committing unauthorized use of means of transport occurs when a person is knowingly transported or physically in a vehicle the person knows (or has reason to know) is stolen. That means that simply being a passenger in a car that you have reason to know was stolen can be a felony. This category is classified as a class 6 felony, punishable by .33 – 2 years in prison.

Theft of Means of Transportation (A.R.S. § 13-1814)

This is the law people generally think of when they think of auto theft. There are multiple ways to commit theft of a vehicle. All of them are classified as a class 3 felony, punishable by 2 – 8.75 years in prison.

The first way to commit auto theft is to control another person’s vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their vehicle. Again, the law defines control as acting “to exclude others from using their property except on the defendant’s own terms.”

The second way to commit auto theft applies when a vehicle is entrusted to a person for a period of time. Auto theft occurs if that person then controls the vehicle for a period longer than the permitted timeframe.

A third way to commit auto theft occurs when a person obtains a vehicle through misrepresentation or fraud, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

Auto theft can also occur when a vehicle is lost or mis-delivered. If the circumstances provide “means of inquiry” as to the true owner, and a person takes or controls a lost or mis-delivered vehicle as their own without reasonable efforts to notify the owner, they can be charged with auto theft.

Finally, auto theft occurs when a person controls another person’s vehicle when they knew (or had reason to know) that the vehicle was stolen. Contrary to what you’d expect, the law actually contains a presumption that a person had reason to know property was stolen in this case! The presumption applies if the state can prove that the person 1) possessed the stolen property, 2) purchased it substantially below fair market value, or 3) purchased it from a dealer outside the normal course of business. A satisfactory explanation can overcome the presumption.

Rental Cars

Arizona criminal law also favors rental car companies and lien holders. If a person fails to make a car payment for more than 90 days, for example, the lien holder, if they carefully comply with the language of A.R.S. § 13-1813(2)(a), can ask the State of Arizona to pursue a class 6 felony charge against the lessee (i.e., the person who leased the vehicle or bought it subject to a lien). For rental vehicles, the penalties for failing to return a rental car are even worse. Under Arizona criminal law, if a person rents a vehicle, and fails to return it within 72 hours after the time provided for in the rental agreement, that person can be convicted of a class 5 felony and sentenced up to 2.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections, pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1806.

Conclusion

Theft or use of means of transportation charges are commonly accompanied by other charges too. It is important for your lawyer to investigate the evidence carefully to unearth and utilize all available legal defenses. (The relevant statutes contain several defenses.) Unlike in the video game, the stakes are real. At Griffen & Stevens, PLLC, we are proud to defend clients accused of all types of theft, auto theft, unlawful use, and fraud. Feel free to contact us for a free criminal defense consultation.

Article written by Ian van Schilfgaarde, Esq.

Featured image of “Grand Theft Auto” screen used pursuant to license issued by iStock by Getty Images. This article is for educational purposes only, and is not for commercial use. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship nor does it contain any legal advice.

Arizona Ignition Interlock and DUI Drug Cases

Written By Ian van Schilfgaarde, Esq.

There are several different types of misdemeanor DUI charges under Arizona law. All require varying mandatory minimum penalties for a conviction, including jail time. All misdemeanor DUI charges in Arizona are classified as class 1 misdemeanors. In this article, we will break down the current DUI laws in Arizona as they relate to mandatory penalties and ignition interlock device orders.

DUI to the Slightest Degree

A DUI to the Slightest Degree states that it is illegal to operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle “[w]hile under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.” What does this mean? Well, if the State can prove that you had any amount of alcohol, drugs, or other substance in your system that caused you to be impaired to the “slightest” degree, then you can be convicted of a DUI even if your BAC is below a .08! A DUI Slightest is essentially a catchall law for prosecutors to seek DUI convictions when they believe a person was impaired.

Standard, Extreme, and Super-Extreme Alcohol DUI

If you are found driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds .08% (which means that ethanol in your system is higher than .08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, or .08 grams per 210 liters of breath) the State does not need to prove impairment; the BAC alone is sufficient to establish a rebuttable legal presumption of impairment.

If your BAC is above .15%, you can be charged with an Extreme DUI. Not surprisingly, the minimum penalties for an extreme DUI are harsher than for a standard DUI.

Finally, if your BAC exceeds .20%, you can be charged with a Super Extreme DUI. As you can guess, minimum penalties for a Super Extreme DUI are even harsher than for an Extreme DUI.

DUI Drugs

The Arizona statute for “DUI Drugs” states that it is “unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle… [w]hile there is any drug defined § 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body.” Section 13-3401 lays out a myriad of different drugs, including marijuana THC, cocaine, methamphetamine, and most prescription drugs. Similar to an extreme or .08 DUI, the State does not need to prove impairment so long as it can prove that the drug is in your system and you are not an authorized user (like a medical marijuana card holder or a valid medical prescription holder for a prescription drug).

Minimum Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI Convictions

The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI range from varying mandatory minimum penalties to the maximum possible for a class 1 misdemeanor. Maximum penalties include 6 months in jail, a fine of $2,500 + 83% surcharge, alcohol counseling, community service, and an ignition interlock requirement.

Minimum penalties for a DUI Slightest, DUI .08 and DUI Drugs are generally the same. They include alcohol/substance abuse counseling, jail time of 10 days (9 can be suspended upon completion the counseling), fines of approximately $1,600, and, in some cases, an ignition interlock for 12 months.

Minimum penalties for an Extreme DUI include the same counseling requirement, jail time of 30 days (21 can be suspended upon successful completion of counseling), a fine of approximately $2,800 (including surcharges), and 12 months of ignition interlock.

A Super Extreme DUI also carries the same counseling requirement, jail time of 45 days (31 can be suspended with completion of alcohol counseling), a fine of approximately $3,300, and a year of ignition interlock.

Second, or subsequent, DUI offenses have much harsher mandatory minimum penalties. A third DUI within 7 years will usually result in an aggravated (or felony) DUI.

Ignition Interlock for DUI Drug Convictions

Extreme, Super Extreme, and subsequent DUI convictions require the court to impose an ignition interlock device (“IID”). The actual order for the IID will come from the Arizona MVD, a subdivision of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). Even DUI convictions that do not require a court-ordered ignition interlock still require the MVD to require a person who has been convicted of a DUI to install an ignition interlock for at least 12 months on any alcohol-related DUI.

Previously, the law in Arizona did not distinguish between an alcohol related DUI, a DUI to the Slightest Degree, or a DUI Drugs – all required either the court or the MVD to impose an ignition interlock for at least 12 months. Thankfully, Arizona law changed on January 1, 2017 with respect to DUI Drugs. The amended law, A.R.S. § 28-1381(I)(6), no longer mandates the court or MVD to require an ignition interlock device if the offense did not include alcohol. That means that if you were charged with a DUI that involves drugs and alcohol, it is better to be convicted of only the DUI for drugs, if a better result cannot be achieved.

Conclusion

The Arizona legislature takes DUI cases seriously. At Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC we provide a thorough analysis of all DUI charges to consider what our clients’ best options are. Sometimes a trial is the only appropriate method of defending your rights. Other times it is advantageous to pursue alternatives that may help you avoid significant collateral consequences, such as an ignition interlock device order.

This article does not contain legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This article is for informational purposes only. We encourage you to call our law firm, or use our contact form, if you need a consultation, legal advice, or representation.

Ryan Stevens Appointed to Merit Selection Panel

The Griffen & Stevens Law Firm is pleased to announce that Flagstaff attorney Ryan J. Stevens has been appointed by the U.S. District Court (District of Arizona) to the Merit Selection Panel for the full-time United States Magistrate Judge position for the District of Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona. The appointment was completed by General Order 18-11 in the U.S. District Court, available here.

Mr. Stevens is honored to serve the northern Arizona community, the court, and the legal profession with this appointment.

Our Case Results (Fall, 2018)

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