Over the past year, catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed around the country. Part of your car’s exhaust system, the catalytic converter plays an important role in reducing pollution. If you are caught stealing a converter, you face serious penalties for theft.
Even worse, both state and federal legislators are considering bills that will increase the penalties specifically for catalytic converter theft. Please contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today to speak with a Houston criminal defense attorney. Your freedom might depend on hiring the right defense lawyer.
Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?
Catalytic converters end up converting harmful hydrocarbons, like nitrogen oxides or carbon monoxide, into less harmful chemicals, like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water. Consequently, they reduce pollution in the environment. According to cars.com, catalytic converters are around the size of a bread loaf and located between the exhaust and the muffler.
Converters are valuable because they contain certain metals that are in high demand right now: rhodium, palladium, and platinum. In fact, the price of these metals has increased 200-400% over the past few years.
Experienced thieves can remove a catalytic converter in about a minute. They then sell the converter to people who will harvest the metals and either use them or sell them to buyers.
Thefts Have Exploded
No part of the country has been untouched by the rise in catalytic converter thefts. According to a Fox 26 Houston story, more than 153,000 converters were stolen in 2022 across the nation. That’s a jump from the usual 1,000-2,000 stolen each year.
Houston has seen its share of catalytic converter thefts as well. Locally, the most common vehicles targeted are the Ford Expedition, the Ford F Series, and the Toyota Tundra. Hybrid vehicles are also popular, since their converters have more of these valuable metals than those used on other vehicles.
Caught Stealing a Converter? You Can Go to Jail
Anyone caught trying to steal a converter could face various criminal charges. The most common is theft, which in Texas can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the item stolen.
For example, if the item is worth $750 to $2,500, you could face Class A misdemeanor charges. If it is worth only $100 to $750, then you are facing Class B misdemeanor charges. Both could result in jail time and fines.
Today, catalytic converters are selling for around $1,800. An older converter might be worth less, maybe only a few hundred dollars, but most defendants will be facing at least Class B misdemeanor charges.
More Aggressive Sentencing For Crimes Against The Elderly
If your victim was an elderly person, then the state can bump up your charges one level. That means a Class A misdemeanor could suddenly become a state jail felony, which could send you to state jail for a maximum of two years and carry other repercussions. And these penalties are for first-time offenders. If you have more felonies or misdemeanors on your criminal history, you could face a stiffer sentence.
Increasing Legislation For Catalytic Converter Theft
Legislators are also trying to clamp down on theft. In Texas, one state senator has introduced a new law that would make it a crime to simply be in possession of a catalytic converter if the person doesn’t work for an approved automotive business, like a mechanic’s shop. If Texas passes this law, the state doesn’t even need proof that you stole it—possession is enough for a conviction.
Even the U.S. Congress is getting in on the act. The proposed PART Act would make it a crime to steal a catalytic converter, and any conviction could send a defendant to federal prison for up to 5 years.
Reach Out to Our Houston Theft Attorneys
Tad Nelson and his team can defend anyone accused of stealing a catalytic converter. The best defense will probably be based on the facts that we uncover by reviewing the state’s evidence. For example, there might be insufficient evidence that you actually stole the catalytic converter. Just because it’s in your garage or you were trying to sell one doesn’t mean you knew it was stolen. There is often an innocent explanation.
We can also attack the value of the converter. The state has an incentive to claim it’s worth more than it is so they can charge you with a more serious offense. But it might be worth only a couple hundred of dollars, which would reduce the penalties you face.
Call our firm today to discuss your case in a free consultation with a Houston criminal defense attorney.