Stealing a motor vehicle (not including a motorcycle) worth more than $100 is automatically a felony in New York State, but the degree depends on the value of the vehicle.

State Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft:

Classified as Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, motor vehicle theft is a Class E felony. There is no minimum sentence for a first-time offender, which means that potential sentences include prison, a fine, restitution, probation, or a conditional discharge. A first-time offender could be sentenced to 1-4 to four years in prison. A predicate felon will face a 1 1/2-to 4 years. If the vehicle stolen is valued in excess of $3,000, a person can be charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and receive a prison sentence of 2-7 years for a first-time offender. Stealing a vehicle worth $50,000 or more is Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and punishable by up to 5-15 years in prison for a first time offender and 7 1/2-15 years for predicate felons.

When is the best time to act?:

Anyone charged with motor vehicle theft should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away, as the consequences of a felony conviction can be severe: prison time and drastically reduced employment options. If a defendant is not a born U.S. citizen, their immigration status may be jeopardized.

Related Crimes:

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Joyriding, Robbery, Grand Larceny, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle

Difference between New York State and Federal statutes:

Motor vehicle theft becomes a federal matter when stolen vehicles are transported across state lines or the thefts are part of a racketeering scheme. The enactment of the Motor Vehicle Theft Law Enforcement Act was directed at professional “chop shops” which directly or indirectly cause cars to be stolen in order to obtain replacement parts for damage. Criminal penalties apply for the alteration or removal of motor vehicle identification numbers, trafficking in motor vehicles or vehicle components which have removed or falsified identification numbers, importing or exporting motor vehicles, vessels, or aircraft that have been stolen or that have had their identification numbers falsified or removed.

Successful Defenses:

If a defendant can prove that they had the owner’s consent to take the vehicle, that they mistakenly believed that the vehicle was theirs, or that there was no intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property, they have a valid defense against car theft.

High profile/Government cases:

In February 2014, 29 people were charged for their participation in an international carjacking ring that stole vehicles in New Jersey and New York before shipping them to West Africa. Over 160 vehicles valued at more than $8 million were recovered as a result of the 10-month investigation known as “Operation Jacked”. The ring members were paid between $4,000 and $8,000 to steal cars and sell them to fences. All were charged with the second-degree crime of leading an auto theft trafficking network, racketeering, money laundering and fencing.