Car Theft Laws in NYC

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Car Theft Laws in NYC


New York is seeing a big surge in auto thefts. 26 cars got stolen from an NYC dealership in a single night. Reports say car theft is up 50% in recent years.  

Stealing a car is automatically a felony in New York, even if the value of the car would normally qualify you for a misdemeanor charge instead. If you are accused of car theft, you’re in some serious trouble. 

Types of Motor Vehicle Crimes in New York

Different forms of car theft are classified based on how the crime is committed.

Motor Vehicle Larceny is the crime of taking a motor vehicle valued over $100 with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car’s use or possession. This is a Class E felony that carries a sentence of up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Joyriding is charged as “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle,” and it occurs when a person takes or uses a vehicle without the owner’s consent. In this case, the perpetrator either gives the car back or clearly intended to give the car back. A first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

Carjacking is a robbery charge and occurs when someone uses threat or force to take a vehicle from someone. Carjacking is a Class C felony offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the carjacker causes physical injury or is armed or appears to be armed the crime becomes a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. 

Motorcycles are covered under normal larceny charges. 

What are the defenses for a car theft charge?

There are three common defenses we use.

The first is that you had a legal right or consent to use the vehicle. 

The second is that you didn’t intend to take the vehicle without the owner’s permission. If you merely made a mistake in the terms of permission, for example, then you did not commit a crime. 

You intended to return the vehicle. While this may still get you convicted of joyriding, it can help you avoid a far more serious Motor Vehicle Larceny charge. A plea bargain like this would be a matter of last resort, but it’s still a possibility in most cases. 

All criminal cases are complicated. If you’re going to minimize the damage to your life after a charge like this, you’ll need help from a qualified criminal lawyer. Contact our office to schedule a case review today.

See also:

Why Good Defense Lawyers Accept Guilty Clients 

How a New York Attorney Gets Charges Dismissed 

When is it Smart to Take a Plea Deal? 


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