Auto theft is a significant problem in many cities, including New York. The state has implemented various laws and regulations to combat this issue and prevent car thefts from occurring. However, many individuals are unaware of the auto theft laws in New York and the penalties for violating them. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will discuss the various auto theft in New York, including the different types of theft, the penalties for each offense, and what you can do to protect yourself and your vehicle. Whether you are a New York resident or simply visiting the state, it is essential to be aware of these laws to ensure that you are not inadvertently breaking them and to help reduce the prevalence of auto theft in the state.
Definition Of Auto Theft In New York
It is illegal in New York to take, operate, or otherwise possess another person’s car without that person’s consent. Examples of motor vehicle theft charges in New York include the following:
- Stealing someone else’s car from a parking lot;
- Failing to return a rental car to Hertz, or another rental agency, at the end of a rental agreement;
- Being a mechanic or a car repair shop, driving the car that was given to you for repairs for a weekend in Boston, without the owner’s permission;
- Knowingly driving a stolen car, even if you weren’t the one who stole it.
Types Of Auto Theft Crimes In New York
New York Motor Vehicle Theft can be prosecuted under several criminal laws:
- Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the First Degree
- Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Second Degree
- Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree
- Petit Larceny
- Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree
- Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree
- Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree
Unauthorized Use Of A Motor Vehicle
When someone takes or uses a car without the owner’s permission, it is known as unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (also known as joyriding). Unlike auto theft, the joyrider does not plan to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle’s usage or possession. The offense is illegal usage. Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle can result in one of three levels of penalty, depending on the situation.
Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree
Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in the third degree covers the broadest range of conduct and includes when a person, without consent of the vehicle’s owner, does any of the following:
- takes, operates, exercises control over, rides in, or otherwise uses the vehicle
- while servicing a vehicle, uses the vehicle in a way that is unrelated to the repair and for the person’s own purposes, or
- retains another’s vehicle for a lengthy time period beyond the agreed return time or operates the vehicle in a manner constituting a gross deviation from the agreed-upon purpose.
Any of this conduct constitutes a class A misdemeanor, which subjects the offender to up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
What Is a “Gross Deviation From the Agreement”?
In accordance with New York Criminal Code Section 165.05., “gross divergence from the agreement” is defined legally. An illustration of a serious departure from the agreement is as follows:
- having possession of a vehicle for more than two days after obtaining written notice to relinquish the vehicle, despite having custody of the vehicle for less than 15 days and keeping it for at least 7 days after the agreement’s expiration.
Can Both the Driver and Passenger Be Charged with Motor Vehicle Theft Under the Unauthorized Use of Vehicle Charges?
Yes, New York Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle charges can be brought against both the driver and the passenger. As long as it can be proven that both individuals knew they were in the car without the owner’s permission. Knowing can be established by the circumstances of the case – i.e. breaking into a car and rummaging to see if there are any valuables would establish that the actor knew that he was doing so without the authorization of the car’s owner. The actor’s own statement, such as when they are pulled over and say, “This isn’t my car, my friend borrowed it from their friend, who doesn’t know I have it,” can also be used to show knowledge.
Unauthorized Use in the Second Degree
A defendant who commits third-degree unlawful use of a motor vehicle, having been previously convicted of the same conduct in the second or third degree, is guilty of a class E felony.
Unauthorized Use in the First Degree
Unauthorized use in the first degree, a class D felony, is committed by a joyrider who utilizes a motor vehicle in the course of committing a class A through D felony or in immediate flight from the offense.
(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.00, 70.15, 80.00, 80.05, 165.05, 165.06, 165.08 (2020).)
New York Motor Vehicle Theft Charges: Larceny And Possession Of Stolen Property
Charges for the unauthorized taking and possession of someone else’s property are also available in New York. Some of these accusations are specifically related to the unauthorized taking or possession of vehicles that belong to other people.
A person who steals property is guilty of Petit Larceny under New York Criminal Code Section 155.25. This charge is relevant to the theft of another person’s car as the property is commonly defined.
Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree
There is a Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree charge that applies to the stealing of someone else’s car. Under New York Penal Law 155.30(8), a person is guilty of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree when:
- He is she steals the property of another, AND
- The property is a motor vehicle; AND
- The value of the motor vehicle is over $100.
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree in New York refers to the felony of knowing possession of stolen property. According to New York Penal Code 165.40, a person commits this offense if they:
- Possesses Stolen Property
- With intent to benefit himself or a person other than the owner thereof or to prevent the recovery by the owner of the property.
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree
Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree, under New York Penal Law 165.45(5), is a felony that applies to unlawful possession of someone else’s vehicle. These are the elements of this charge:
- Possesses stolen property
- The value of which is over $100
- The property consists of a motor vehicle
Penalties For Auto Theft In New York
Auto theft is a serious crime in New York, and the penalties for this offense can be severe. The specific penalties depend on various factors, including the value of the stolen vehicle and whether or not the offender has prior criminal convictions.
New York Motor Vehicle Theft: Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle
Sentencing and Penalties for Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree
A new York Third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle is a Class “A” misdemeanor. This charge is punishable by up to one year in prison, by a fine of up to $1,000, or a combination of such fine and incarceration. However, due to the charge’s classification as a Class “A” Misdemeanor, other possible penalties include time served, probation, a conditional discharge, or an unconditional release. As part of your plea agreement to charges of Third Degree Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, you might have to perform some community service.
Sentencing and Penalties for Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Second Degree
Unauthorized Usage of a Vehicle in the Second Degree is a Class “E” Non-violent Crime. As a result, this offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years. For this New York crime, penalties that are determined to be one year or less in length are possible. Moreover, terms of conditional discharge, unconditional discharge, or probation are also possible for this New York Motor Vehicle Theft conviction.
Penalties and Sentencing for Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle In the First Degree
Unauthorized Usage of a Vehicle in the First Degree is a Class “D” Non-violent Crime. As a result, this offense carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in jail. With this New York Motor Vehicle Theft crime, however, there are several alternative punishments, including conditional discharge, probation, and a fixed sentence of 1 year in jail or less.
New York Motor Vehicle Theft Charges: Larceny and Possession of Stolen Property
Additionally, New York has charges relating to the unlawful taking and possession of someone else’s property. Some of these charges specifically relate to unlawful taking or possession of cars belonging to someone else.
Sentencing and Penalties for Petit Larceny
Petit Larceny is a Class “A” Misdemeanor. As such, this offense is punished by up to 1 year in prison. Practically speaking, small larceny cases normally settle themselves without any jail time. Probation, unconditional or conditional discharge, or time served are additional possible penalties.
Penalties and Sentencing for Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree Charges
This motor vehicle theft offense in New York is a Class “E” non-violent felony. As a result, this offense carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail. A plea to the charge of grand larceny in the fourth degree, however, could result in probation, a fixed sentence of 1 year in jail or less, a conditional discharge, or an unconditional discharge.
Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Possession of Property in the Fifth Degree
Fifth-degree criminal possession of the stolen property is a Class “A” misdemeanor. As a result, this specific offense carries a maximum one-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, punishments of time served probation, and conditional or unconditional discharge applies are permitted for this New York Motor Vehicle Theft charge.
Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree
Criminal Possession of Stolen Goods in the Fourth Degree is a Class “E” Non-Violent Felony. As a result, this specific crime carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail. Nonetheless, for this specific offense, punishments of probation, conditional discharge, unconditional discharge, or a set jail term of one year or less are acceptable.
New York charges carjacking as robbery in the second degree. Such an act is when someone snatches someone else’s vehicle by using or threatening force. Carjacking constitutes a class C felony offense. Penalties for a class C felony include up to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine (or double the amount of the offender’s gain from the crime). First-degree robbery, a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and the same punishment as above, applies if the carjacker injures someone physically or is armed or pretends to be armed.
Statute Of Limitations For Auto Theft In New York
In New York, the statute of limitations for auto theft is three years. This means that the prosecution must begin within three years of the commission of the offense. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For example, if the offender leaves the state of New York after the commission of the offense, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” or paused until the offender returns to the state. Additionally, if the theft is not immediately discovered, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until the theft is discovered.
It’s important to note that while the statute of limitations limits the time within which the prosecution may begin, it does not limit the time within which the victim may file a civil suit for damages resulting from the theft. The victim may file a civil suit within a longer period, depending on the circumstances.
Defenses To Auto Theft Charges In New York
A defendant facing a theft of a motor vehicle or similar offense may have access to one or more legal defenses, albeit the specific ones that are available will vary greatly from case to case. In cases involving the theft of a motor vehicle, the following defenses may be employed.
No theft has taken place if a person is allowed to drive a car with the owner’s permission. This argument occasionally applies because the individual who took the car may have misinterpreted the conditions of the owner’s authorization. For instance, you did not conduct motor vehicle theft when you took the friend’s automobile on Tuesday if they agreed to let you borrow it on Thursday but you mistook thought it was Tuesday.
Mistake of fact
Mistakenly taking an automobile a someone believed was theirs, or believed they had the authority to take, does not constitute motor vehicle theft. For instance, if you leave a car dealership’s lot thinking it’s the one you bought but it turns out to be another car with the same make and model number, you haven’t actually stolen a motor vehicle.
Theft of a motor vehicle is not committed if the person who takes the vehicle does not intend to permanently deny the owner the use or possession of the vehicle. Even if the vehicle is later returned, taking it without the owner’s permission would still be considered joyriding.
Reporting Auto Theft In New York
If you are the victim of auto theft in New York, it’s important to report the theft to the authorities as soon as possible. Here’s what you should do:
- Call the police: Call 911 or your local police department immediately to report the theft. Provide them with as much information as possible, including the make, model, and license plate number of the stolen vehicle.
- Contact your insurance company: Notify your insurance company of the theft as soon as possible. They will likely ask for a copy of the police report, so make sure to get one.
- Notify the DMV: Contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to report the theft and request a new vehicle registration.
- Keep track of your expenses: Keep a record of any expenses related to the theft, such as towing fees, rental car costs, and repairs. This information will be useful for insurance claims and potential court cases.
- Stay vigilant: Keep an eye out for your stolen vehicle and report any sightings to the police. Thieves may abandon or hide the vehicle, so it’s important to keep looking.
Remember, reporting auto theft in a timely manner can increase the chances of recovering your vehicle and holding the responsible parties accountable.
Auto Theft Prevention Measures In New York
Auto theft is a serious problem in New York, but there are several measures you can take to prevent it. Here are some auto theft prevention tips:
- Lock your vehicle: Always lock your vehicle, even when you’re only leaving it for a short time. Use anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks, tire locks, and electronic immobilizers to make it harder for thieves to steal your vehicle.
- Park in well-lit areas: Whenever possible, park in well-lit areas with high foot traffic. Avoid parking in isolated or dark areas.
- Don’t leave valuables in plain sight: Don’t leave valuable items in your car, especially in plain sight. If you must leave items in your car, hide them in the trunk or under a seat.
- Use an alarm system: Consider installing an alarm system that alerts you and others if someone tries to break into your vehicle.
- Use GPS tracking devices: Consider using GPS tracking devices that can help you locate your vehicle if it is stolen.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
- Don’t leave your keys in the car: Never leave your keys in the car, even if you’re just running into a store for a minute.
By taking these measures, you can help prevent auto theft and keep your vehicle safe.
Auto Theft And Insurance In New York
Auto theft is a serious problem in New York, with the state having one of the highest rates of auto theft in the country. The New York Police Department (NYPD) reported 8,343 stolen vehicles in 2020, a 60% increase from the previous year. Auto theft can be a major financial loss for car owners, but having comprehensive insurance coverage can help mitigate the damages.
In New York, car insurance is mandatory and drivers are required to have liability coverage at the minimum. Liability coverage only covers damages to other vehicles and property in the event of an accident where the insured is at fault. However, comprehensive coverage is an optional add-on that can provide protection against auto theft.
Comprehensive coverage protects against theft, as well as damages from natural disasters, vandalism, and other non-collision incidents. If a car is stolen and covered by comprehensive insurance, the insurance company will reimburse the owner for the value of the car up to the policy limit. It’s important to note that comprehensive coverage does not cover personal belongings stolen from the car, such as a purse or laptop.
Auto insurance rates in New York can be higher due to the state’s high rate of auto theft. Insurance companies use statistics to calculate risk and determine premiums, and the higher incidence of auto theft in New York means that insurance companies may charge more for comprehensive coverage. However, it’s still a worthwhile investment to protect against the potential loss of a vehicle.
Car owners in New York can take steps to prevent auto theft, such as parking in well-lit areas, using anti-theft devices like alarms and steering wheel locks, and never leaving the keys in the car. Taking these precautions can help reduce the risk of theft and may also result in lower insurance premiums.