Difference Between “Motor Vehicle Theft” and “Unauthorized Removal of Property”

In Maryland a stolen car is typically prosecuted under one of two different criminal law sections. One is Motor Vehicle Theft, defined under Criminal Law Article Section 7-105. This statute prohibits a person from “knowingly and willfully taking a motor vehicle out of the owner’s lawful custody, control or use without the owner’s consent.” This is a felony that is punishable with a maximum of five (5) years incarceration and/or a fine of $5,000.

The other statute is Unauthorized Removal of Property, Crim. Law Article Sec. 7-203. Prohibited under that section is the “taking and carrying away from the premises or out of the custody of another or use of the other,” without permission of the owner, of property including a motor vehicle. Under 7-203 this crime is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum of four (4) years in jail.

As you can see from the definitions of the crimes under each code, there is a great deal of overlap between the two statutes. Both prohibit the taking away of a motor vehicle from the possession and control of the owner. Clearly it is preferable as a defendant to be facing a misdemeanor charger instead of a felony, so usually it is better off if the case is charged under 7-203 instead of 7-105, if it is charged at all. In a number of factual circumstances involving car theft, the prosecutor may have the discretion to decide. A defense attorney can substantially help out a defendant, no matter which theft statute they are charged under, and help limit the defendant’s exposure.

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