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If Someone Damages a Stolen Car, Is That a Crime?

Taking someone's car without their permission is considered a theft crime. Many stories about auto theft report that the person who took the vehicle, in their attempt to avoid being caught, hit objects on or near the road, causing damage to the car. Some may wonder if the driver could face additional charges for such actions. In Connecticut, the answer to that is "yes."

Criminal Trover

There is a legal doctrine referred to as "trover." It provides that a person could be held financially responsible for unlawfully taking someone's property and subsequently causing damage to it, meaning the owner could recover the value of their property.

Connecticut has a law on the books that makes damaging stolen property not just a civil matter, but a criminal one as well.

The law is referred to as criminal trover, and it can be charged in the first or second degree. Depending on the degree, it is either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

What Is Criminal Trover?

According to C.G.S. 53a-126b, criminal trover in the second-degree occurs when someone:

  • Knowing that they are not authorized to do so,
  • Uses another's personal property, and
  • Damages the property, resulting in economic loss to the owner

Second-degree criminal trover is a class A misdemeanor. If a person is convicted of this offense, they could be jailed for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $2,000.

Under C.G.S. 53a-126a, first-degree criminal trover is when a person:

  • Using force, enters a vehicle or removes the ignition,
  • Drives the vehicle without permission, and
  • Damages the vehicle, causing economic loss to the owner

The first time someone commits first-degree criminal trover, they are charged with a class D felony. The conviction penalties include up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines. For second and subsequent offenses, the classification increases to a class C felony. In that situation, a conviction can result in up to 10 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

A person accused of causing damage to a stolen vehicle not only faces criminal trover charges but charges for other offenses that may have allegedly been committed as well. For instance, if a person points a gun at someone to take their car, they could be charged with a weapon crime, larceny, carjacking, and robbery. Of course, the specific charges depend on the actual circumstances. Still, it's important to know that criminal trover can be tacked on to other crimes, which means the defendant would have to defend against allegations for multiple offenses.

Criminal Trover Is Concerned with More than Damage to Stolen Vehicles

Although this blog began with a mention of causing damage to stolen vehicles, looking at Connecticut's law, it's apparent that it doesn't apply to only cars. Any property taken without consent and subsequently damaged is covered under the law.

If you're facing charges for an offense in Connecticut, reach out to Tomeo Sills, LLC at (844) 913-7747 or contact us online. We'll aggressively defend your case and seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.