One of the most common crimes in Chicago is that of possession of a stolen vehicle. For a defense attorney such cases present certain peculiarities and challenges, but they also present opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of the law. Understandably, the defendant may try to claim a lack of knowledge about the origin of the car, but the investigating officers are normally well versed in the critical aspects of discovery. They will most certainly ensure that the mens rea is proved. The Actus Reus is normally a foregone conclusion since in most cases the suspect is caught red handed, usually in the commission of a traffic offense.
Implications for the Defendant
The indicative term of imprisonment is anywhere between three and seven years; quite a stiff sentence when one considers the fact that defendants who are involved in major violence and significant economic crimes might get a shorter term (see People vs Wright). The value of the car in question can be a mitigating or aggravating feature. For example, a car that is worth more than $10,000 will normally attract a Class 2 felony charge. Other aggravating features include the use of deception and threats. There are instances in which the offense is merely a conduit for more serious charges such as grand auto theft or even robbery. Therefore, it is imperative for the defending attorney to have as much information about the case as possible before it moves to arraignment and trial.
Given the circumstances of the individual cases, it may be possible to enter a plea bargain, particularly if the prosecution is of the view that they are catching more flies with honey. At other times the prosecution uses the charge in order to incarcerate someone that is considered to be a danger to the public but whose main index offense does not have sufficient evidence to stand up in court. Given the possibility of upgrading the charges to grand auto theft, it is imperative to retain a defense attorney that is conversant with the more serious aspects of the offense category.
A Cat-and-Mouse Game of Procedure
The law is an art and not a science. Therefore a lot of pre-trial maneuvering will take place. For the defense, one of the most effective strategies is to attack the investigatory procedure. Typically the police will be focusing on other serious charges so the room for lapses is high. Moreover if there are witnesses then they should be discredited without reflecting badly on the defendant. Attacking grandma on the stand is really not an effective strategy. However suggesting that witnesses may be mistaken or prejudiced in some way could be a subtle way of creating doubt amongst the jury members. That is all that is required to get an acquittal.
The bare law is enshrined in 625 ILCS 5/4-103. The offense is committed when one receives, conceals, possesses, disposes of, sells or even transfers a vehicle whilst knowing that the vehicle has been acquired via theft or otherwise converted. Other possible avenues for committing the offense include altering or modifying the vehicle’s ID number. The purchasers of such a vehicle are also at risk of being charged unless they can prove that they had no knowledge about its dubious sources or that a reasonably diligent investigation yielded results that did not suggest there was any form of criminality committed. Needless to say, ignorance about the particular statutes and case precedents is not an effective defense. However the defense should also prepare for the aftermath, which may involve civil penalties such as fines, forfeiture, and restitution.
This is one of those cases that requires an experienced attorney who is prepared to undertake a long and comprehensive investigation in the pre-trial phase. If you are looking for a professional and experienced attorney to take your case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law today at 312-560-7100.
(image courtesy of Aidan Meyer)