should I prosecute the thief of my car?
July 25, 2006 5:33 PM   Subscribe

My car was stolen and I've been asked whether I would be willing to prosecute the theft, if the police find him/her. Does anybody know what would be involved in this and/or what my options would be concerning handling of the theft/thief? -Purplefiber's roommate
posted by purplefiber to Law & Government (13 answers total)
A. They'll never find who stole your car.

B. YOU don't prosecute criminals, DAs do.
posted by clh at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2006

It requires a real examination of things if you do. My bike was stolen several years ago. Coincedentally, 10 months later the guy I bought it from saw it parked outside a labor-ready. I went over there, confirmed the serial number and called the police. They were so amazed they simply clipped the chain and were going to send me on my way - when the current rider of the bike approached them asking what they were doing. They gave him every chance to walk away ("Just tell us you bought it from somebody and we won't charge you with posession of stolen property."), but he insisted it was his bike and that he had owned it for nearly two years. The police asked if I wanted to prosecute and I agreed, he was arrested. Several months later I received a letter from the DA informing me that the theft was successfully prosecuted and the perpatrator was now serving a prison term of no less than five years.

I regret the prosecution, now. Yeah, the dude shouldn't have stolen my bike, but five years. For a bike? I don't feel responsible for the five years, but I also feel it was excessive. I don't know what grand theft auto carries, but you might think about it a bit.
posted by jmgorman at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Five years -- the judge may be Puritanical, but much more likely is that the thief was in a heap of trouble already with warrants or prior convictions.
posted by chef_boyardee at 6:57 PM on July 25, 2006

I don't know what grand theft auto carries, but you might think about it a bit.

It's not the victim's job to think about the consequences to the theif... it's the theif's job. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Chef_boyardee is probably right too - there may have been other charges.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2006

Go on local chat sites and see whether witnesses in car theft cases in your area have been intimidated by the thieves or their 'associates.'
posted by jamjam at 8:09 PM on July 25, 2006

This is mainly a continuation of "clh"'s point and to add that it may not matter what you do.

My friend had his car stolen and later the same day a gentleman was pulled over driving it. The gentleman's attorney argued that no one had seen him steal the car and it could not be proved that he didn't buy the car from the party that had actually sold it. The gentleman was found completely innocent.
posted by rudyfink at 10:42 PM on July 25, 2006

"actually sold" should have been "actually stolen"
posted by rudyfink at 10:44 PM on July 25, 2006

What's involved? You may be called upon to testify at the trial. You'll certainly have to make a statement.

Options? Press charges or don't. Any other options would involve illegal activity on your roommate's part.

Bottom line- tell your roommate to stop being such a pussy. As IndigoRain pointed out, people who commit crimes almost always deserve exactly the punishment they get- it's why our judicial system works. The "outrageous" sentences you read about are very few and far between.

Keep in mind, though, that few car thieves are ever found- most either ditch the car after a joyride or strip it for parts. Few will be driving it around.
posted by mkultra at 7:05 AM on July 26, 2006

it could not be proved that he didn't buy the car from the party that had actually [stolen] it.

BTW, IANAL (or a cop) but this sounds like very weak investigative work to me- wouldn't the logical path be to force him to give up whomever he "bought" it from? I can't believe that excuse works.
posted by mkultra at 7:07 AM on July 26, 2006

chef_boyardee writes "Five years -- the judge may be Puritanical, but much more likely is that the thief was in a heap of trouble already with warrants or prior convictions."

Yep, sounds like a plea. And the sentence was five years; he'll be paroled sooner than that (got to make room for the stoners) unless he gets in trouble in jail.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 AM on July 26, 2006

The only situation I was in that comes close was when I was assaulted many, many years ago (someone punched me, then realized he was quite outnumbered, so he jumped in his car and drove off). I called the police and gave them his license plate number.

They called back a week or so later and said they'd found him and asked if I'd like to press charges. They said if I did, I'd have to show up in court, and if I didn't, they'd charge me with something (failure to appear? wasting the courts time?)

So my advice is to determine whether you'll have any obligations if you say yes.

Good luck, and sorry about the car.
posted by cactus at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2006

Ask to press charges and cooperate. Because if you don't, the scumbag will go off and steal some other poor sap's car. (mine, your mother's, etc.) If they can make a good case, the DA or prosecutor will be in touch with you. You may have to make a statement, you may have to testify in court if it actually comes to a trial. If he pleads and gets sentenced, you'll probably have a chance to give what's called a "victim's impact statement," where you can go before the court and the scumbag and tell them just how this has inconvenienced you and pissed you off.

Most likely he's done something like this before, and if he's not sidetracked at this point, he'll do it again.
posted by printchick at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2006

Response by poster: okay, purplefiber's roommate speaking again. Thanks for all the input. My car was found (minus the thief) this morning, so I'm guessing that's probably the end of it, though it did piss me off to get back a filthy car that I had nothing to do with screwing up... Have to be glad I got it back though...
posted by purplefiber at 12:22 AM on July 27, 2006

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