A recent article recounted the arrest of a brother and sister who are alleged to have run a “chop shop.” Most people understand that a chop shop refers to the stripping down of stolen vehicles and the sale of the parts (either individually or as part of a “new” vehicle). You might think that the crime is akin to car theft. But while the two are certainly related, there are major differences, including the classification and the potential sentence if you are convicted.
What is a “Chop Shop”?
Interestingly, there is an entire chapter (Chapter 43) of the Arizona Criminal Code devoted to chop shops. The term is defined in A.R.S. 13-4701 as premises (a) used to alter, dismantle, reassemble or store one or more motor vehicles or watercraft, (b) obtained through theft or fraud, (c) with the intent to (i) change the identity of the vehicle or its parts, or (ii) sell the vehicles or the parts. So, while the definition certainly relates to auto theft, it involves quite a bit more. And the classification of the offense reflects the difference.
Classification of Auto Theft, Chop Shops and Related Crimes
There are numerous offenses involving the theft or unlawful taking or use of a motor vehicle. Here are some of them, along with the corresponding classification:
- Unlawful use of a means of transportation – Class 5 or Class 6 felony.
- Unlawful failure to return a rented or leased motor vehicle – Class 5 felony.
- Theft of a motor vehicle – Class 3 felony.
The highest classification, and the most severe penalties in this area, however, are reserved for chop shops, the ownership or operation of which is a class 2 felony. Whatever the reason, this variation on auto theft carries the same classification as offenses usually thought of as much more serious, such as sexual conduct with a child under the age of 15; sexual assault (rape); kidnapping; and manslaughter.
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Phoenix, AZ 85004