Car stealing

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What is Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel ?

The offence of Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel is contained in Section 154A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which creates a number of offences, the most prevalent of which is Section 154F- taking and driving a motor car without the consent of the owner or the person in lawful possession.

Case law/Jurisdiction
This matter is a Table 1 matter. This means that it is normally heard in the Local Court unless the DPP elect to try by indictment in which case it will be heard in the District Court.

The nature and elements of the offence of Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel were considered in the case of R v Glenister (1980) 2 NSWLR 597 esp at 607–608. Here it was said:

“The jury should be told that to establish that the accused took the conveyance “fraudulently”, he or she must be shown to have acted dishonestly in the sense that the purpose at the time of the taking of the conveyance was dishonest and that, in deciding whether the act of taking was dishonest, they should apply the current standards of ordinary decent people”

The Law

154F of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states:

A person who steals a motor vehicle or vessel is guilty of an offence.

What must the prosecution prove?

Since Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel offence is a criminal offence, the burden of proof lies on the Prosecution.

The prosecution must prove each of the elements in the charge beyond reasonable doubt.

That is a high standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before someone can be convicted of Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel.

To establish Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt;

  • You were the person who committed the offence;
  • That you stole a motor vehicle or vessel; and
  • With the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the motor vehicle or vessel
  • Our Top Lawyers will work closely with you to assess whether the Prosecution case is weak or strong.

If you are charged with the offence of Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel what are your options?

National Criminal Lawyers have been successful in defending a large number of stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel charges where the prosecution could not establish each of the elements of Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel. We have also achieved a number of non-convictions for stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel charges.

NCL offer the following options for those who have been charged with Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel;

  1. We will negotiate with prosecutors (police or DPP) (a term referred to as “plea negotiations”) to request that the charge is withdrawn, downgraded or fact sheets amended;
  2. NCL will Plead Not Guilty and go to hearing/trial and persuade the Court that prosecution has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt;
  3. Plead guilty to the elements of the charge and then dispute the facts (at a special “disputed facts” hearing) with the view of having you sentenced less harshly; and/or
  4. Plead guilty with full acceptance of the facts as set out by the police and make strong submissions on your behalf requesting that the Court not record a criminal conviction.

Pleading Guilty

If you agree that you have committed the offence and the police are able to prove all the elements of the offence, it is best to plead guilty at an early opportunity to receive the maximum discount. Currently the maximum discount available for an early plea of guilty is 25% of the sentence.

Furthermore, the early guilty plea shows the Court that you have remorse and contrition for your actions.

Our Lawyers at National Criminal Lawyers work closely with you to ensure that we obtain all necessary paper work to get you the best result and increasing the chances of obtaining a non-conviction or section 10.

Maximum Penalties

In NSW, stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel if heard in the Local Court carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. If tried on indictment in the District Court the maximum is 10 years imprisonment.
Please note these penalties are reserved for the worst kind of offending and are unlikely to be what you would receive.

Pleading Not Guilty

If you decide to plead not guilty you will need to prepare to go to a Defended Hearing. National Criminal Lawyers are the best Criminal Solicitors Sydney has to offer.
A defended hearing is where all the witnesses of that case are called to give evidence. The witnesses are both examined by the prosecution and tested by your defence lawyers.
National Criminal Lawyers, headed by one of Sydney’s Best Criminal Lawyers have defended thousands of people charged with Car Stealing and are experts at these hearings.


As expert criminal defence lawyer’s we know that some of the possible defences available for those charged with Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel can include;

  • If you were compelled to act in a certain way due to the circumstances, or the threats of another you may be able to argue “Duress”;
  • If your actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm from occurring, you may have the defence of “Necessity”.

For a list of all possible defences that may be applicable to you, please visit our dedicated defence page


The Courts are not bound by statistics however there must be reasonable consistency in sentences. A Magistrate or Judge should have regard to what has been done in other cases. In Green [2011] HCA 45, the plurity judgement of French CJ, Kiefel and Creennan JJ stated:

“Equal Justice” embodies the norm expressed in the terms “equality before the law”. It is an aspect of the rule of law.

For Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel 46% of Offenders received full time imprisonment whereas 22% received a s9 good behaviour bond.

Our Top Lawyers have been successful in obtaining no criminal records for offences of this nature through informal representations with the NSW Police.

Possible Penalty's

In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel charge.

  • Prison sentence;
  • Home Detention;
  • Intensive correction order (previously periodic detention);
  • Suspended sentence;
  • Community service order (CSO);
  • Good behaviour bond;
  • Fine; and/or
  • Section 10.

However, from the 24 September 2018 new penalty’s will be replacing the above. They are as follows:

  • Full time Imprisonment;
  • New ICO (ICO) with a home detention condition available;
  • New Community Correction Order (CCO);
  • Fine and/or
  • New Conditional release Order (CRO)

For more information, please visit our dedicated page on Penalties.

Case Studies

Our client was one of several accused who allegedly participated in taking a car and then driving it from a secure carpark. He was represented by National Criminal Lawyers Parramatta. He was 18 years old at the time of the alleged offending and had no prior court appearances. The car was not damaged. Because our client was very remorseful and made early and full admissions we were able to successfully obtain a s10(1)(b) non recording of a conviction. During the sentencing hearing we presented excellent material in mitigation including character references and a psychological report. Our client’s obvious remorse was demonstrated through her letter of apology which was also provided to the Court. Our client avoided a disclosable outcome for theft of a motor vehicle.

Why National Criminal Lawyers?

There are three reasons to choose National Criminal Lawyers:

1. We get the results

We are the experts in either beating or having criminal charges withdrawn AND/OR obtaining the least restrictive penalty available. This is because no matter which option you choose within our tailored Options at Law you will be dealing with experienced criminal lawyers who can make sure the evidence is not only obtained properly but also that your case is prepared and presented to the highest best practice standards possible. This is also done without breaking your pocket.

2. We give a Senior Defence Lawyer guarantee

No matter which option at law you choose, National Criminal Lawyers can guarantee that a Senior Defence Lawyer will represent you. This means that with our over 25 years of Combined criminal law experience you will get the best result possible.

3. National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights

At National Criminal Lawyers we know that Criminal Law is a matter of Human Rights. For this reason, we take pride and passion in representing our clients. This pride and passion to assist those charged with an alleged or actual breach of the criminal law is to us a matter of righteous necessity and in that sense, you can always rest assured that National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights. This true not only when the police have just simply got it wrong OR if they have got it right then we can speak with you and make sure you get you the best result available.

If you have been charged with any Stealing a Motor Vehicle or Vessel offence our Team at National Criminal Lawyers are well versed and specialists in having charges either withdrawn and otherwise achieving favourable outcomes.

For one of Australia’s Best Criminal Lawyers, please contact us now for a first FREE consultation. on 02 9893 1889.

Book your first free appointment with National Criminal lawyers now.
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