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HB 591
SHORT TITLE Crime Of Motor Vehicle Embezzlement
APPROPRIATION (dollars in thousands)
or Non-Rec
General Fund
(Parenthesis ( ) Indicate Expenditure Decreases)
REVENUE (dollars in thousands)
Estimated Revenue
or Non-Rec
$0.1 Recurring General Fund
(Parenthesis ( ) Indicate Revenue Decreases)
LFC Files
Responses Received From
Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)
Administrative Office of the District Attorneys (AODA)
Department of Public Safety (DPS)
New Mexico Municipal League (NMML)
Public Defender Department (PDD)
Sentencing Commission (SC)
Taxation & Revenue Department (TRD)
Synopsis of Bill
House Bill 591
creates new two new criminal offenses related to motor vehicles. The first
offense created by HB 591 is for embezzlement of a vehicle. Embezzlement of a vehicle or
motor vehicle consists of a person embezzling or converting to the person’s own use a vehicle or
motor vehicle with which the person has been entrusted, with fraudulent intent to deprive the
House Bill 591 – Page
owner of the vehicle or motor vehicle. The bill also establishes fraudulently obtaining a vehicle
or motor vehicle as a new criminal offense. This offense consists of intentionally
misappropriating or taking a vehicle or motor vehicle that belongs to another person by means of
fraudulent conduct, practices or representations. The offenses are established as second, third, or
fourth degree felonies, dependent upon the value of the vehicle or motor vehicle.
HB 591 also changes the offense related to receiving or transferring stolen vehicles or motor
vehicles pursuant to Section 30-16D-6 NMSA 1978 from an automatic fourth degree felony, to a
second, third or fourth degree felony, dependent upon the value of the motor vehicle. It also
establishes second and third degree felonies related to the unlawful taking of a vehicle or motor
vehicle, dependent upon the value of the motor vehicle. Finally, HB 591 expands requirements
in Sections 30-16D-8 and 30-16D-9 NMSA 1978, which ensure proper identification of vehicle
or engine parts to motor vehicle components.
HB 591 defines the criminal offenses created or changed by it as racketeering offenses under the
Racketeering Act.
HB 591 also provides for criminal sentencing enhancements if a stolen vehicle or motor vehicle
is used in the commission of a felony. Specifically, the bill provides that when a separate finding
of fact by the court or jury shows that a vehicle or motor vehicle was unlawfully taken,
embezzled or fraudulently obtained was used in the commission of a non-capital felony, the
basic sentence of imprisonment shall be increased by one year. Second or subsequent non-
capital felonies shall be increased by three years. These sentencing enhancements shall serve as
the first years of the sentence and shall not be suspended or deferred.
There will be a minimal administrative cost for statewide update, distribution and documentation
of statutory changes. Any additional fiscal impact on the judiciary would be proportional to the
enforcement of this law and commenced prosecutions. New laws, amendments to existing laws
and new hearings have the potential to increase caseloads in the courts, thus requiring additional
resources to handle the increase.
The AOC notes as penalties become more severe, defendants may invoke their right to trial and
their right to trial by jury. More trials and more jury trials will require additional judge time,
courtroom staff time, court room availability and jury fees. These additional costs are not
capable of quantification.
The AODA notes there will be minimal costs involved for prosecutors since these crimes are
currently being prosecuted under other statutes.
The Sentencing Commission states legislation which increases sentences may have the effect of
increasing the length of time taken to resolve a case. Further research is necessary to discover the
impact of increased sentences on the criminal justice system.
House Bill 591 – Page
The AODA provided the following:
New Mexico being a border state has a significant problem with automobile theft.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau web site in 2006 there were 9,225
vehicles stolen in New Mexico. Vehicle thefts were up 15.4% from 2005 in New Mexico
while nationwide thefts dropped 3.4%. Giving the FBI’s estimated average valuation of
$6,173 per vehicle stolen this amounts to an estimated $56.9 million in losses in vehicle
value alone. This does not take into account losses for property that may have been inside
the vehicle, loss of work, nor other related costs associated with the theft. Albuquerque
was ranked the 13th highest metropolitan area nationwide for automobile theft and had a
theft rate of 882.77 vehicles stolen per 100,000 people.
These types of cases can be particularly difficult to obtain restitution for victims, as
when individuals are caught typically it is while driving the stolen vehicle and not in the
act of theft. In these situations there is usually no way to prove the person in possession
of the vehicle is, in fact, the individual that stole the vehicle and the most they can be
charged with is Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, 66-3-505 NMSA, a fourth degree
felony punishable by only one year imprisonment (special penalty). While significant
damages can be caused by someone in possession of a stolen vehicle, there is only a one
year period in which to collect restitution. While Unlawful Taking of a Motor Vehicle,
66-3-504 NMSA, provides a penalties from 18 months imprisonment if the value of the
vehicle is under $2500 and three years if the value is over $2500, it is more difficult to
prove as the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is in
fact the one that stole and damaged the vehicle. Additionally, if a typical vehicle now
costs an average of $20,000, increasing the penalties in line with the Equitable
Sentencing Act would allow for longer periods in which restitution can be assessed,
especially where a vehicle has been damaged beyond repair. Certainly a vehicle,
essential for life and earning a livelihood in New Mexico, should be as valued as any
other property.
Enhanced penalties may initially produce a slight increase in the number of trials involving these
charges, but once the new “norm" is accepted this increase may disappear.