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Legislators begin to focus on carjackings

Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018

* Is a legislative crackdown on carjackings coming?

In Illinois, motor vehicle theft is classified as a Class 2 felony, which carries a sentence of between three and seven years. But under the state’s current law, a person in possession of a stolen vehicle has to know it has “been stolen or converted” to be charged with felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

That knowledge, Emanuel’s office and police brass say, can be difficult to prove because those caught with vehicles that have been carjacked often claim they didn’t know it was stolen. The result often is a reduced misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

Unlike the felony charge, which can require the offender to post bail and carries the likelihood of state prison time, a misdemeanor typically results in probation and an immediate release from jail, said Walter Katz, Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for public safety.

A new bill filed late Friday would remove the requirement that a person in possession of a stolen vehicle has to know it is stolen and instead set the bar at whether the individual possesses the vehicle without the consent of the owner or “exercises exclusive unexplained possession” of a vehicle.

The bill is here.

* More from ABC 7

“The change will shift the standard to whether the rightful owner of the vehicle provided consent to the individual caught driving reported stolen vehicle,” said State Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago).

According to data from the city, since January 2017 there have been 4,240 vehicle thefts in Chicago. Of those, 3,139, or 74 percent, were misdemeanor trespassing while 879, or only 21 percent, were charged as felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The remaining charges fell into other categories.

“I had a resident before she even had a chance to turn off her car and put it in park, she already had a gun to her head,” said State Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago).


To underscore the inadequacy of the current law, Emanuel cited one case earlier this month when a teenager attempted to carjack a retired cop, was arrested, and released, before being arrested again less than 48 hours later — for carjacking.

“You would think that currently the criminals had an advocate or a lobbyist writing the law for them,” Rep. Andrade said.

* But changing the armed juvenile carjacking statute has a different set of legal issues

Dozens of juveniles were charged last year in Chicago for allegedly pointing guns at motorists and stealing their cars, but most were not detained longer than 24 hours, according to court records obtained by the Sun-Times.

Armed carjackings have become a major political problem for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Almost every part of the city has been plagued by the brazen holdups. There were almost 1,000 of them last year, compared with 663 in 2016. […]

Chicago Police data show juveniles are contributing to the rise of armed carjackings: 42 juveniles were arrested for that offense last year through Dec. 16, compared with 31 adults. […]

[Sen. Bill Cunningham] said one possibility is for the legislature to change the burden of proof for juveniles charged with aggravated carjacking. The legal presumption in those cases is that the defendants should not be detained unless the prosecutor can show why, Cunningham said. He said he’s examining whether defendants should be detained unless their defense attorneys can show why not.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Chris Widger - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:27 pm:

    Changing the law won’t affect very much as long as the prosecutors and judges have an attitude that these crimes aren’t worth chasing down. We have elections for them, and again, people get the government they deserve. I suppose I oppose changing the law; it’s reasonable to have a knowledge requirement in the law, and we shouldn’t need legislative malarkey to get prosecutors to act the way we want them to.

  2. - Perrid - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:27 pm:

    Tightening the requirements is probably a good idea. Yeah it’s possible that your friend lent you a car that he had stolen and you did not know was stolen, in which case you are SOL, but that’s just not that likely.

  3. - Chris Widger - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    “Exclusive unexplained possession” also sounds like it may not survive a vagueness challenge. We have a notion of crime in this country as something that must be proven by the government, not explained away by the defendant.

  4. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    Twenty five years. No parole.

  5. - Lucky Charms - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:35 pm:

    =Twenty five years. No parole.=
    Unbelievably inhumane

  6. - stlboy - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:38 pm:

    “Unbelievably inhumane”
    Even if a gun was used?

  7. - JoanP - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:40 pm:

    Nope. Criminal laws should always have a mental state, intent, knowledge, etc. It’s ridiculous.

  8. - Retired - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 1:49 pm:

    All accused of carjacking should be tried as adults with no exceptions. If a gun is used, minimum sentence should be 25 years and no parole.

  9. - supplied_demand - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    ==We have a notion of crime in this country as something that must be proven by the government, not explained away by the defendant. ==

    That old “innocent until proven guilty” chestnut, such a pain. Clearly, there is an existing loophole, closing it will produce positive results. Unabashed cynicism certainly won’t help solve the problem.

  10. - Swift - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:07 pm:

    ==”You would think criminals had an advocate or a lobbyist writing the law for them”== great quote there, almost Rauneresque.

    On the plus side, CPS seems to be getting across probability to juvenile criminals, 73 arrests for almost 1,000 carjackings, 93% chance of not getting arrested, not bad odds.

  11. - Amalia - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:11 pm:

    as long as you let the juveniles go home (Toni take note), you will have this problem. changing the law is a small part of the answer. there must be consequences. this is a Cook County problem.

  12. - Northern pike - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:12 pm:

    If these are carjackings then they should be prosecuted under robbery. Not possession of a stolen car.

  13. - FTR - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:17 pm:

    == Emanuel cited one case earlier this month when a teenager attempted to carjack a retired cop, was arrested, and released, before being arrested again less than 48 hours later — for carjacking. ==

    But Rahm’s proposed bill will do next nothing to address that example. That kid wasn’t immediately released because it’s hard to prove auto theft cases at trial. He got out because juvenile carjackers no longer go to “adult” court. They stay in the juvenile system, where judges have essentially stopped detaining offenders in the Juvy Home while their cases are pending — even for gun crimes.

    We should either go back to trying juvenile carjackers as adults like we used to, or require they’re held at least temporarily in Juvy upon arrest.

  14. - IRLJ - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:17 pm:

    Don’t confuse carjacking, which is a violent crime and should be dealt with as such, with car theft, which is larcenous, serious but not violent.
    What is true for both, is that without requiring criminal intent, innocent people can go to jail.

  15. - AndyIllini - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:23 pm:

    Northern Pike, I think the point is that under current law, possessing a stolen car isn’t considered proof that you stole it.

    Like I steal your car, cops identify it, pull me over. I’m driving it. They ask me why I’m driving a stolen car, I shrug my shoulders. They don’t have a video of me stealing it, no one saw me do it. My fingerprints are all over it, but again, I’m driving it so of course they would be. So how do you know I stole it? So instead they charge me with trespassing since I wasn’t supposed to be in your car. So it’s not that I can’t be charged with stealing it, it’s that there’s no proof I stole it, other than that I was driving it when they found it, which under current law isn’t enough. I think that’s the issue here.

  16. - Steve - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:38 pm:

    Anyone charged with car jacking shouldn’t be allowed bail . Period…

  17. - Rutro - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:44 pm:

    When you raise the age of juveniles and get rid of mandatory auto transfers, kids quickly learn they can do a bunch of very bad things w/out serious consequence. Lots of blame to go around.

  18. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 2:45 pm:

    Rather than change the law, Rahm would be better off hiring more detectives, relaxing the chase policy for recently stolen vehicles (also lobby the state to strengthen municipality sovereign immunity laws - the never ending lawsuits are ridiculous), and put pressure on CPD and the state’s attorney to put together solid vehicular hijacking cases (don’t be afraid to go to trial).

  19. - Payback - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 4:32 pm:

    “That knowledge, Emanuel’s office and police brass say, can be difficult to prove because those caught with vehicles that have been carjacked often claim they didn’t know it was stolen.”

    That’s what we want in America, “police brass” writing and promoting laws that take away the expectation of every citizen to be considered innocent until proven guilty. While we’re at it, let’s do a poll and see if police believe that those accused of crimes deserve a jury trial if they choose. Or maybe we could just let cops be judges too and pronounce sentence on the spot, like Judge Dredd. Badges make humans infallible, don’t the serfs know it’s for their own good?

    “The result often is a reduced misdemeanor charge of trespassing.”

    So you’ve got a suspect identified, arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and has a court date. The State’s Attorney has eighteen months to file or amend the charge on most misdemeanors, and it’s just too hard for them and the police to actually do their jobs and prove the car was stolen? Boo hoo. Right, let’s shift the burden of proving innocence to the accused and time trip back 800 years to before the Magna Carta was signed. The U.S. Constitution is so outmoded anyway.

    Any lawyer who promotes this garbage should be disbarred.

  20. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Feb 13, 18 @ 5:13 pm:

    Making possession of a stolen car a felony would be a first step. The defendant can provide an affirmative defense by showing he got the car from someone who he reasonably believed had the car legally.

    The police can trace possession back to the carjacker. Now they have no leverage. With the new law, they would have leverage.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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