Under Washington law, it’s a crime if you take someone else’s vehicle without that person’s  consent and then do certain other things with it (like change the vehicle’s appearance or remove its parts).  Taking a vehicle in the first degree is a serious felony offense that is punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. If you are facing an auto-related offense in Washington, please contact a skilled criminal defense attorney now for help.

What is the Taking of a Motor Vehicle in the 1st Degree?

RCW 9A.56.070 is the Washington statute that sets forth the crime of taking a motor vehicle without permission in the 1st degree. You commit this offense if you take a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent and then do any of the following:

  • Alter the motor vehicle for the purpose of changing its appearance or primary identification (including obscuring, removing, or changing the manufacturer’s serial number or the vehicle identification number plates),
  • Remove or participate in the removal of parts from the motor vehicle with the intent to sell them,
  • Export or attempt to export the motor vehicle across state lines or out of the United States for profit or
  • Intend to sell the motor vehicle.

Note that taking a motor vehicle in the 2nd degree is a separate and less severe crime than the one discussed above. You commit that offense simply by taking a vehicle without the owner’s permission. The crime is often referred to as “joyriding.”

What are the Penalties?

Taking a motor vehicle without permission in the 1st degree is a class B felony under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:

  • A maximum 10 years in state prison, and/or
  • A maximum fine of $20,000.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Yes. You are encouraged to contest a charge of taking a motor vehicle with a legal defense. A common defense is for you, or your defense lawyer, to show that you acted with a vehicle owner’s permission. You can also assert that you just took a vehicle without permission and did not take some other act. Note, though, that here you would likely face a 2nd degree taking charge.

Defendants can also try to assert that the police did not have probable cause to arrest them. If no probable cause, then a judge could dismiss a charge in its entirety.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a charge of taking a vehicle without permission, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on motor vehicle related crimes. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!