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Is a Snowmobile Considered a “Motor Vehicle” if Stolen?

Posted Monday, May 4, 2020 by Andrew Charles Huff

Julia Tucker stole a snowmobile and was subsequently convicted of Theft of a Motor Vehicle. However, on appeal she argued that she could not have committed this crime because a snowmobile is not a motor vehicle under that law. She cited a prior decision by the court which held a riding lawnmower is not a motor vehicle under that statute.

The legislature has defined “motor vehicle” as a self-propelled device that is capable of moving and transporting people or property on a public highway. The Court found that the state’s vehicle and traffic laws define “motor vehicle” as “a vehicle that is self-propelled or a vehicle that is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires but not operated upon rails.” A “Vehicle” is further defined as a “device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway.” The Court found that nothing in the auto theft statute indicates a legislative intent to criminalize only theft of cars or other automobiles. The statute criminalizes theft of a motor vehicle and the legislature’s definition does in fact include snowmobiles.

Therefore, a snowmobile is a “motor vehicle” for purposes of stealing a motor vehicle and Ms Tucker was properly convicted.

State of Washington v. Julia Tucker, NO. 97283-4

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