To tackle the rise of automotive thefts across the state, Governor Phil Murphy signed four bills into law on Friday, July 7, which aim to impose stiffer penalties and expand criminal definitions related to motor vehicle theft.
- Broadens the criminal penalties associated with the unlawful use of motor vehicle master keys, which are key fobs or computer programs capable of operating locks or starting a motor vehicle. Individuals who knowingly possess or advertise such items for illicit purposes will be deemed guilty of a fourth-degree crime. This provision does not apply to law enforcement personnel, insurance organizations, or leasing business entities. P.L. 2023, c. 100 took effect on July 7, 2023.
- differentiates the crimes of motor vehicle theft and receiving a stolen motor vehicle as separate statutory provisions, resulting in either a second-degree or third-degree crime based on the car’s value. Theft of a car valued over $75,000 is a third-degree crime. In addition, for persistent motor vehicle offenders with two or more prior convictions of carjacking, theft, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, or receiving stolen property that is a motor vehicle may face an extended prison term at the request of the Prosecutors. P.L. 2023, c. 101 took effect on July 7, 2023.
- augments the definition of the “leader of auto theft trafficking network” to include individuals conspiring with others to unlawfully take, dispose of, distribute, transport, or bring motor vehicle or motor vehicle parts as stolen property in a for-profit scheme or course of conduct. They are subject to a second- degree crime with fines up to $250,000. The new law also establishes that participation in an auto theft network will constitute a third-degree crime. P.L. 2023, c. 102 took effect on July 7, 2023.
- negates the presumption of pretrial release for defendants charged with certain motor vehicle theft offenses if they were arrested or convicted of a prior motor vehicle theft offense within the preceding 90 days, including receiving stolen property, or a similar crime under any statute of the United States or any other state. P.L. 2023, c. 103 took effect on July 7, 2023.
These new laws strive to mitigate the growing motor vehicle thefts with further actions to ensure accountability for those involved in the crimes.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, x116.