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Senate Approves Package of Car Theft Bills

Car Insurance and Theft Colourful Vector Illustration flat style


TRENTON – The Senate today approved a package of bills to counter auto thefts and related crimes in New Jersey. Sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, Senator Paul Sarlo, Senator Joseph Lagana and Senator Richard Codey, the bills target a range of criminal activities, including auto theft networks, the use of juveniles by ringleaders, and the use of so-called “master keys” to steal vehicles.


“The rate of auto-thefts over the past two years threatens the property and safety of New Jersey residents and places an added strain on law enforcement,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “It’s crucial we take decisive and creative action to deter car thieves while also providing additional support to the law enforcement departments and our prosecutors’ offices who are already working hard to curb this disturbing trend.”


“Car thefts and related crimes are an ongoing threat to the safety and security of diverse communities throughout the state,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “It calls for actions to crack down on offenders, to help prevent thefts, and take down the criminal networks of car thieves.”


“In New Jersey, the vast majority of residents depend on their cars to get back and forth to work, to get their kids to school, or to go wherever they need to be. These bills offer new ways of thinking, and new ways of attacking the car theft problem in our state, by focusing resources on several fronts, and, when necessary, strengthening laws to make would-be perpetrators think twice before stealing another person’s automobile,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic).


“In recent years, our communities have been plagued with the crimes of car thefts, with the thefts primarily being done by repeat offenders,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex). “These are sophisticated, well-financed, well-organized business operations, more or less corporations. If we want to get serious about busting up these operations and making headway on car thefts, we must go after the captains of these rings, and not merely be content with arresting the teen-age perpetrators who may be in their service.”


The bills approved by the Senate:


  • S2284/S3389 – This legislation, sponsored by Senators Sarlo, Lagana and Gopal, would establish separate statutory provisions for the existing crimes of theft of a motor vehicle and knowingly receiving stolen property that is a motor vehicle, and provide for extended sentences for certain persistent offenders.
  • Based on State Police testimony a separate statutory provision for motor vehicle thefts and the ability for prosecutors to pursue extended terms of imprisonment for repeat offenders would greatly assist prosecutors and law enforcement in responding to the increase in auto thefts across the State.


The bill was approved with a vote of 37-0.


  • S-3006/S3345– This legislation, sponsored by Senator Codey and Senator Bucco, would expand the crime of leader of auto theft trafficking network and establish a new third degree crime of participant in auto theft trafficking network.
  • Specifically, the bill would expand the definition of “leader” to include recruiters, and any person who conspires to unlawfully take automobile parts. The bill establishes the new third degree crime of participant in an auto theft trafficking network, which is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and three to five years imprisonment.


The bill was approved with a vote of 37-0.


  • S-3390 – This bill, sponsored by Senator Gopal, would expand criminal penalties related to the illegal use of a motor vehicle “master key.” This bill amends current law to make it a fourth degree crime for a person to knowingly possess for an unlawful purpose a key fob that operates a vehicle owned by another person or possess a computer program commonly used to start a motor vehicle without an ignition key or key fob.


The bill was approved with a vote of 37-0.


  • S-3777 – Legislation sponsored by Senator Lagana, would eliminate the presumption of pretrial release for defendants charged with certain motor vehicle theft offenses if the defendant was arrested or convicted of a prior motor vehicle theft offense within the 90-day-period preceding the charge.


The bill was approved with a vote of 37-0.