Four people from Maryland were arrested recently for the theft of multiple motorcycles, tractors and ATVs. According to investigators, the individuals stole 21 vehicles from dealerships in both Virginia and Pennsylvania, and then sold them in Maryland.
The vehicles were worth between $85,000 and $100,000 total. The defendants, however, face a fine much larger than that: $750,000 to $1.25 million. They also face between 25 to 45 years in prison. These are federal penalties, because the group's alleged illegal activity took place across state lines.
Federal v. state theft crimes
Federal crimes are different from state crimes. They often carry harsher sentences and involve multiple agencies (in this case, the FBI as well as state agencies). In general, the federal government prosecutes cases involving activity across state lines such as drug and theft crimes, white collar crimes, immigration crimes, gun crimes and internet crimes. A state offense is one that specifically occurs in the state. Those crimes are generally prosecuted in the county where the offense occurred.
Theft can be either a state or a federal crime, depending on the nature of the theft. Of course, if a teenager steals a movie from an electronics store, he or she will not face federal prosecutors. Shoplifting, minor theft, even motor vehicle theft that occurs in state borders are generally state crimes.
Whether you face theft charges in federal or state court, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges. Motor vehicle theft can land you in prison, but even minor theft can hurt your future when it is on your criminal record. That is why it is essential to act.
Learn more about theft defense by visiting our pages on larceny and theft.
Source: TribLive, "4 from Maryland indicted in string of thefts, including one in West Deer," Liz Hayes, Nov. 16, 2012