In Washington, a person commits theft of a motor vehicle by stealing a vehicle regardless of the value of the vehicle. Theft of a motor vehicle is a class B felony and is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. So, that begs the question, what is a motor vehicle? If a person absconds with a snowmobile, are they stealing a “motor vehicle”? After all, a snowmobile has to be licensed and it does have a motor.
Earlier this year this very issue was before our state’s Division III Appellate Court. The court’s previously found in State v. Barnes that riding a lawn mower was not a “motor vehicle” for purposes of the statute, RCW 9A.56.065. The lead opinion in Barnes explained the purpose of the “Elizabeth Nowak-Washington auto theft prevention act,” which was to “curb[ ] the rising rate of auto thefts.” It concluded that “The plain meaning of ‘motor vehicle’ is clear. The legislature has explicitly indicated it intended to focus this statute on cars and other automobiles. It was responding to increased auto theft, not increased riding lawn mower theft. In like kind, in State of Washington v. Julia E. Tucker, No. 35530-6-III, the Court held that because a snowmobile is not a car or other automobile, a snowmobile is not a motor vehicle for purposes of RCW 9A.56.065. Now that cities like Monroe are authorizing ATV’s on their roadways (although ATV’s do have rubber tires, they often have similar hobby-like uses as snowmobiles), will this issue about snowmobiles (and riding lawn mowers) being a ‘car’ or ‘other automobile’ be reignited? Only time will tell, as it always does with our judicial system.
If you are a loved one is cited, charged or ‘cuffed’ for a crime, it is a very smart idea to immediately hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle Criminal Lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether you are cited with an infraction or arrested and/or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.