Vehicle burglaries can occur regardless of how upscale the neighborhood, and many of those car break-ins are done by minors from the same area. Whether done out of boredom or to find loose change, breaking into a car is against the law whether or not anything ends up stolen.
Unlawful entrance to a vehicle can result in criminal charges even if nothing of value is removed from the vehicle. Utah Code 76-6-204 explains that “any person who unlawfully enters any vehicle with intent to commit a felony or theft is guilty of a burglary of a vehicle.” If a teen opens a car hoping to find loose change or a GPS system and all they find are empty soda bottles and fast food wrappers, they are still entering the vehicle with the intent to commit a theft. Burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a large fine.
If upon entering a vehicle illegally the teen finds and removes items of value, they will obviously face charges of theft if caught. The punishment for theft depends on the value of the items stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, the charges for theft can range from a class B misdemeanor for theft of items valued under $500 to a second degree felony is the value of the stolen item exceeds $5,000 or is a firearm. There are other possible charges related to vehicle burglary including:
• Possession of burglary tools, a class A misdemeanor if items were needed to break into vehicles as explain in 76-6-205;
• Criminal mischief if the vehicle or any item inside was damaged as described in 76-6-106 with penalties varying depending on “pecuniary loss” during the vehicle burglary; or even
• Aggravated robbery, a first degree felony if the vehicle broken into was occupied by a driver according to Utah Code 76-6-302.
Teens who may view vehicle burglaries as simple, no-risk crimes should be educated on the potential legal outcome that could result from breaking into a vehicle. Those minors already facing charges should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.