Auto-theft in Arizona is governed under A.R.S. § 13-1814 (theft of a means of transportation), which lays out a number of different ways that a person can commit the crime of theft of a means of transportation.

The traditional way that auto-theft occurs is when a person, without lawful authority, control’s another person’s automobile with the intent to permanently deprive the person of the automobile. Another way that auto-theft can occur is if you borrow someone’s automobile but then fail to return it to the person within the authorize time in which you were allowed to borrow it. Obtaining another person’s automobile by making a material misrepresentation with intent to permanently deprive the person of the automobile is also considered auto-theft. These are just a few examples of the multiple ways that auto-theft can occur under A.R.S. § 13-1814.

Auto-theft is a serious crime and is treated as a class 3 felony. See A.R.S. § 13-1814 (D). But there are defenses that can be raised. One such defense is “consent,” meaning that the owner of the automobile actually gave you permission to drive the owner’s car. Another common defense raised in auto-theft cases is that the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the automobile, which would implicate the lesser defense of “joyriding,” instead of auto-theft. Mistake of fact can also be asserted as a defense in auto-theft cases.

If you think you are going to be accused of auto-theft or are the subject of an auto-theft investigation, it is critical to contact an attorney who can intervene early on in the process, before charges have been filed. Early intervention can reduce the possibility of a criminal charge being filed and can mitigate the severity of the consequences of the situation. The experienced Arizona criminal defense attorneys at Giordano Spanier & Heckele, PLLC can help. Call today for a consultation: (520) 433-9031. Or email us at