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Pittsburgh Criminal Lawyer > > Criminal Law > It Is Against the Law to Leave Your Car Unattended When Warming It Up

It Is Against the Law to Leave Your Car Unattended When Warming It Up


The winter, especially the holiday season, presents many season-specific opportunities for theft.  You or someone you know has probably learned the hard way about putting purchases in the trunk and locking your car if you have had newly bought gift items stolen while you were Christmas shopping.  An enterprising thief can steal unsecured holiday decorations from in front of someone’s house.  One of the most common types of winter theft is also one of the most preventable.  In fact, Pennsylvania has taken measures to prevent car theft in the winter by imposing civil penalties on car owners who leave their vehicles unattended with the engines running while waiting for the cars to warm up.  The more severe penalties, though, are for stealing cars left unattended.  If you have been accused of stealing a car or anything else, contact a Pittsburgh theft crimes lawyer.

Pennsylvania Laws About Car Theft

Most theft cases are classified as misdemeanors or felonies according to the value of the stolen items, but vehicle theft is always a felony, even if the stolen car is an old clunker with a resale value of only a few hundred dollars.  The law does not treat all cases involving stealing equally, though.  The charge is usually vehicle theft (sometimes called “grand theft auto,” to distinguish it from “petty theft” of small, inexpensive items) if the defendant stole the car by hotwiring it or by obtaining the keys without the owner’s consent.  The charges are reduced to carjacking if the defendant drove the car without the owner’s permission but intended to return it, such as if a teenager with a driver’s license drove their parents’ car without the parents’ knowledge.  They are increased to carjacking if the defendant obtained the car by threatening or physically attacking the owner.  Pennsylvania even has laws designed to deter vehicle owners from leaving their cars vulnerable to theft.

In the News

Every year, dozens of car thefts occur in Pennsylvania when the car owners warms up the car by leaving the engine running for several minutes but then leaves the car unattended.  In 2019, the first such vehicle theft took place in York on December 2.  According to section 3701 of Pennsylvania’s vehicle code, you must either stay inside your vehicle while warming up the engine, or else lock the doors with a key other than the one you are using to run the ignition.  Car owners who violate this rule can receive a citation and pay total fees of up to $121.  You do not face criminal charges for leaving a vehicle unattended; it is more like getting a parking ticket.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

The punishments for theft vary widely, and a criminal defense lawyer can help you present defenses that will spare you the harshest penalties.  Contact Pittsburgh theft crimes lawyer Gary E. Gerson to discuss your case if you are facing criminal charges for theft.




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