Loophole makes car theft cases difficult to prove amid rampant crime

Is Portland Over?

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As car thefts are becoming more rampant in the Portland area, experts explained to KOIN 6 News that current laws make these cases more difficult to prove.

Two Court of Appeals decisions made it almost impossible to pursue stolen car charges because the level of proof needed was so high. In one case, a suspect had a labeled “crime committing kit” and his case was overturned.

In 2019, a law was passed to close that loophole adding that car theft is when the person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the owner of the vehicle did not consent to the taking.

In other words, if someone says “hey my buddy let me borrow this car, I didn’t know it was stolen,” but they’re driving it with a screw driver or the ignition is ripped apart, that would be disregarding an unjustifiable risk.

Jeff barker, a retired Portland police lieutenant and former state representative worked on the bill in the legislature to close the loophole.

“Police were saying, well, they couldn’t do anything about it. I think that’s not correct. And I hope that Multnomah county district attorney will prosecute those cases,” Jeff Barker said.

However, even with the changes to the law, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer said these stolen car cases are still difficult to prove.  

“We know the car is stolen and there’s no dispute that the owner of the car did not give permission to these people found in the car, agreed, but we still have to show those people either know they didn’t have permission or there’s something about the circumstances that they’re aware of and they consciously disregard,” Demer said.

Demer also said police are correct, these stolen car cases are hard to prove, but there are a lot of nuances.

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