Federal laws make it illegal to sell, receive, possess, conceal, store, or dispose of a stolen vehicle crossing state lines or United States borders. 18 U.S.C. 2313 applies to motor vehicles, vessels, and aircraft. All states have separate laws making vehicle theft a crime when it occurs within their borders. Once stolen vehicles cross a state or international border, they can be charged with a federal offense.
For example, suppose someone buys a stolen Corvette in California from his friend, knowing it was stolen. They drive the car to Nevada to sell it. In that case, they could be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 2313 for the sale or receipt of stolen vehicles.
18 U.S.C. 2313 says, “(a) Whoever receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of any motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft, which has crossed a state or United States boundary after being stolen, knowing they were stolen, shall be fined or imprisoned for up to ten years, or both.
(b) For purposes of this section, the term “State” includes a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.”
Section 2311 definitions say, “Motor vehicle includes an automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motorcycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle designed for running on land but not on rails;
“Vessel” means any watercraft or other contrivance used or designed for transportation or navigation on, under, or immediately above water;
“Aircraft” means any contrivance now known or hereafter invented, used, or designed for navigation of or flight in the air.”
Notably, suppose you have participated in stolen property at the federal level. You could face other charges under different statutes with separate penalties in that case.
Stolen Vehicles – Quick Facts
There are some essential facts you should know about 18 U.S. Code 2313 sale or receipt of stolen vehicles law, such as the following:
- This federal law only applies when you knowingly engage in a stolen vehicle transaction that has crossed a state line or United States border.
- You must have known the car was stolen when the crime occurred.
- This law also makes it a crime to knowingly possess, store, conceal, sell, barter, or dispose of a stolen vehicle.
- This law covers motor vehicles, vessels, boats, or aircraft.
- If convicted, you could face up to ten years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, probation, and forfeiture of vehicles and property.
- An organization involved in stolen vehicles can be fined up to $500,000.
- This federal law was passed in 1919 to help crack down on the growing problem of theft of vehicles crossing jurisdictions.
- This law is essential for federal prosecutors to indict members of large-scale auto theft trafficking rings.
- International and multi-state vehicle theft is a growing illegal business.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 113 Stolen Property has several federal laws related to 18 U.S. Code 2313 sale or receipt of stolen vehicles, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2311 - Definitions.
- 18 U.S.C. 2312 - Transportation of stolen vehicles: This law says, “whoever transports in interstate or foreign commerce a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft, knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
- 18 U.S.C. 2314 - Transportation of stolen goods, securities, money, fraudulent State tax stamps, or articles used in counterfeiting: This law covers transporting any stolen goods across state or international boundaries with a total value exceeding $ 5,000.
- 18 U.S.C. 2315 - Sale or receipt of stolen goods, securities, money, or fraudulent State tax stamps: This law covers selling, receiving, storing, concealing, or bartering stolen goods while knowing they were stolen. It also covers money obtained fraudulently or items used to create counterfeits.
- 18 U.S.C. 2316 - Transportation of livestock.
- 18 U.S.C. 2317 - Sale or receipt of livestock.
- 18 U.S.C. 2318 - Trafficking in counterfeit, illicit, or counterfeit documentation or packaging.
- 18 U.S.C. 2319 - Criminal infringement of copyright.
- 18 U.S.C. 2319A - Unauthorized fixation of and trafficking in sound recordings and music videos of live musical performances.
- 18 U.S.C. 2319B - Unauthorized recording of Motion pictures in a Motion picture exhibition facility.
- 18 U.S.C. 2319C - Illicit digital transmission services.
- 18 U.S.C. 2320 - Trafficking in counterfeit goods or services.
- 18 U.S.C. 2321 - Trafficking in certain motor vehicles or parts.
- 18 U.S.C. 2322 - Chop shops.
- 18 U.S.C. 2323 - Forfeiture, destruction, and restitution.
What Are the Common Defenses?
If you have been accused or indicted for allegedly violating 18 U.S.C. 2313, selling or receiving a stolen vehicle, our federal criminal defense lawyer can use different strategies, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue that you didn't know the vehicle was stolen. The federal prosecutor must prove that you knew the car was stolen when you sold, stored, or received it. This defense is known as a “lack of knowledge.”
Perhaps you purchased a car from somebody online and later discovered the car's title is fraudulent. In that case, you can't be guilty of receiving a stolen vehicle because you could not know it was stolen when you bought it.
Maybe we can argue the stolen vehicle never crossed a state or international boundary. Perhaps we can prove it never left the state where it was stolen. Still, you could be charged with a state-level auto theft crime but could avoid the severe federal penalties.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea agreement if guilt is not in doubt. We need first to review all the details of the case.
Perhaps we can argue entrapment If law enforcement pressured you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn't have committed. If you can show you were under threat or coercion when you obtained the vehicle, that could potentially provide a defense.
Our federal defense lawyers could help you better understand any aggravating factors resulting in severe penalties after being accused of involvement with stolen vehicles. Contact us for a free case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.