When vehicular theft is not theft: Carnapping cases that took a turn for the bizarre

When vehicular theft is not theft: Carnapping cases that took a turn for the bizarre

The keyless entry system may have made driving more convenient, but it has also made car theft easy. Using a nifty little transmitter, thieves can break into any ‘keyless entry’ vehicle by tricking it into thinking a key has unlocked it. Good for the thieves, bad for the hundreds of thousands of car owners victimized every year.

In Washington (and in many states), theft laws are pretty straightforward. ‘Wrongfully obtaining control over the property of another with intent to deprive him or her of such property’ makes you a thief. Although vehicular theft happens all the time, bizarro incidents like these show that theft cases are not always simple.

When you don’t know you’ve stolen a car

As in the case of an elderly woman in Ontario, who had no idea she was driving around town for two weeks in someone else’s luxury wheels.

After shopping at Walmart, an unnamed woman mistakenly drove off in someone’s black Infiniti QX50 instead of the black Nissan Sentra she rented from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. During the two weeks that she was driving the ‘rental’ Infiniti, she noticed a few things: the ashtray was filthy, there were golf clubs at the back, and the key fob just wouldn’t work.

Unaware of the switcheroo, she returned the fancy car to the shop and complained about the mess. It turned out, the owner of the ‘stolen’ Infiniti also rented a vehicle from the same shop because his car vanished.

The key to this mystery is that both cars were black and had an electronic key fob. In other words, it’s a mistake anyone could have made and why the woman wasn’t charged with motor vehicle theft.

Other than the two weeks’ worth of slight inconvenience and anxiety over the probable loss of his vehicle, the owner of the Infiniti had no reason to sue the woman especially since it was returned undamaged.

When you just want to impress a lady friend

The Ferrari 458 Spider is a fine piece of Italian machinery that’s often called a work of art. It’s also the kind of car you'd save up for several years.

Florida native Levi Miles didn't want to go through all that effort. So in 2017, while waiting with his date Chloe Rimmer at the St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club, he asked the valet to hand him the keys to the Ferrari owned by 73-year old James Fowler.

The valet was initially suspicious but eventually handed over the keys to Miles. As it happens, the carnapping casanova didn’t know how to drive a Ferrari and got pulled over by the police because the car’s tail lights were turned off.

For attempting to impress his date, Miles was charged with grand theft auto and was given a $100,000 fine — an amount of money that would cover the down payment for a Ferrari. Mr. Fowler also sued the resort and valet company.

When you’re just trying to get out of a crime scene

Like Blanca from Houston, who escaped a robbery scene at a Houston branch of Chase Bank by running away and hopping into the first car she saw after making it out of the bank.

Startling the robbers and causing a commotion would have been heroic if it weren’t for the fact that Blanca was fleeing to save herself. But not only did she endanger the lives of the other customers that remained during the robbery, she also fled using the thieves’ getaway car, which happened to be stolen.

Although she did an admirable job of distracting the robbers and calling for help, she was arrested for driving a stolen car. After finding out what really happened, the police let her go. Sadly, the robbers got away by stealing another car.

Seattle attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams have dealt with far less strange motor vehicle-related cases than these. Should you encounter a motor vehicle-related accident or injury case in Washington, call us.