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Is Proposed Carjacking Law Too Burdensome?

 Posted on May 17, 2018 in Criminal Law

Is Proposed Carjacking Law Too Burdensome?Chicago area police departments are reporting an increase in carjacking incidents during the last two years, particularly amongst juvenile offenders. They believe that Illinois’ criminal laws are contributing to the problem because police often only have enough evidence to charge suspects with misdemeanor trespass to vehicle, instead of felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The suspects are usually released within 24 hours, which allegedly allows them to commit the crime again. The proposed legislation would make it easier for police to bring a felony charge against a suspect and detain juvenile suspects for longer periods. The Illinois Senate has already unanimously passed the bill. However, civil rights advocates fear the new law would lead to more felony charges against non-violent offenders.

Law Details

Whether a suspect is charged with vehicle trespass or possession of a stolen motor vehicle depends on whether police have any evidence that the suspect knew the vehicle was stolen. If there are witnesses to the theft, they may be unable to identify the offender because of how quickly the incident occurred or if the offender was wearing a mask. The new law would assume that a suspect is aware that a vehicle is stolen if:

  • The person cannot provide a reasonable explanation as to how he or she came to possess the vehicle; or
  • There is enough evidence that the person should have reasonably suspected that the vehicle was stolen.

Juveniles suspected of committing a carjacking would appear before a judge within 40 hours to determine whether there is probable cause to suspect the offense. If the court finds probable cause, the juvenile can be detained, pending a psychological examination. The juvenile's representatives would need to prove that there is no immediate or urgent need for detention.


Felony charges include more serious penalties upon conviction than misdemeanor charges. The new law may prevent some carjacking offenders from avoiding felony charges, but it may also bring needless felony charges against non-violent suspects. Police could claim that a person who accepted a ride in a stolen vehicle should have suspected that the vehicle was stolen. Juvenile suspects may face an undue burden because they could be detained for weeks while awaiting a psychological evaluation. Adult suspects, by comparison, would be able to leave jail after posting bail.

Appropriate Charges

It is not fair to assume that you were involved in a vehicle's theft because police caught you riding inside it. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney with Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can clear you of a vehicle theft charge or get it reduced to a lesser charge. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.


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