Bill to Enhance Punishment for Auto Theft Advances

Legislation sponsored by Senator Anthony M. Bucco that increases criminal penalties for auto theft offenders was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“In the last few years, New Jersey has witnessed an epidemic of motor vehicle thefts,” said Bucco (R-25). “Existing laws have done more to handcuff our police and prosecutors than handcuff the criminals committing these heinous acts. With the help of my colleagues and our incredible law enforcement this legislation will hopefully put an end to these intolerable crimes.”

“Auto theft networks have grown significantly since 2020,” Bucco added. “During that time car theft increased by more than 40%, and in some areas of the state car theft rates soared even higher. These concerning trends risk decaying our quality of life.”

Senator Bucco’s legislation, S-3006, merged with Senate bill S-3345 in committee to form a comprehensive bipartisan substitute to target auto theft trafficking networks and the criminals in those organizations.

Specifically, the bill broadens the offense for leaders of auto theft networks, so that the original crime will apply to more offenders who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Under the new legislation, car theft will become a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and fines that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, depending on the value of the vehicles stolen.

Additionally, the bill establishes a new crime for offenders who may not be a leader, but nevertheless act as a participant in an auto theft network. Such an act will become punishable as a third-degree crime. Both offenses would be upgraded by one degree when conspiring with juveniles.

“Too many suspects have gotten away with committing auto theft crimes in the past,” Bucco noted. “It is time that we hold these criminals accountable. This legislation sends a strong message that if you commit the crime, you will be caught and you will serve time.”

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