Auto Theft Laws in New York

by ECL Writer
New York Grand Larceny Of A Vehicle

In New York, as in many other jurisdictions, a conviction for motor vehicle larceny or a related offense may result in a protracted jail term and significant fines. In New York, auto theft (laws) is considered a serious crime and is punished harshly. The state has a specific statute for auto theft, called “grand larceny in the third degree,” which is a class D felony. The punishment for this crime can include a prison sentence of up to 7 years and a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, auto theft can also result in a license suspension and impoundment of the stolen vehicle.

Theft of a motor vehicle, including carjacking, joyriding, and other illegal uses of a motor vehicle, is illegal in every state, including New York. And in this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will outline all you need to know about auto theft laws in New York.

Motor Vehicle Larceny (Auto Theft)

Grand larceny in the fourth degree is the act of stealing a motor vehicle valued at more than $100 with the purpose of permanently denying the owner of its use or possession. A class E felony, fourth-degree grand larceny carries a maximum term of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine (or double the number of the offender’s profits from the crime), as well as other penalties. Additionally, the same penalties apply to anyone found in possession of a stolen car valued at more than $100. (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.00, 80.00, 155.30, 165.45 (2020).)

Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle (Joyriding)

In New York, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, also known as joyriding, is considered a criminal offense. It occurs when someone takes someone else’s vehicle without their permission, but with the intention of eventually returning it. This crime is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The punishment for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle may also include license suspension and impoundment of the stolen vehicle. It’s important to note that joyriding is still a serious crime and can have long-lasting consequences, even if the intent was not to permanently steal the vehicle.

Unauthorized Use in the Second Degree

A person who has previously been convicted of the same offense in the second or third degree and commits third-degree unlawful use of a motor vehicle is guilty of a class E felony. For this category of crime, the maximum sentence is four years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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. A class D felony carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a fine of $5,000.

Robbery (Carjacking)

In New York, carjacking is classified as second-degree robbery. Such an act is when someone snatches someone else’s vehicle by using or threatening force. The crime of carjacking is a class C felony. A class C felony carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 (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. (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.00, 80.00, 160.00, 160.10, 160.15 (2020).)

Defenses

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.

  • Consent: 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: Motor vehicle theft does not include accidentally taking a car that a person thought was theirs or that they had the authorization to take. 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.
  • Temporary deprivation: 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.

New York Auto Theft Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of state laws related to New York auto theft laws including links to important code sections.

StatutesGrand larceny in the fourth degree: New York Penal Code Section150.30 (property in excess of $1000, not more than $3000)Grand larceny in the third degree: New York Penal Code Section 155.35 (property in excess of $3000, not more than $50,000)Grand larceny in the second degree: New York Penal Code Section 155.40 (property in excess of $50,000 but equal or less than $ 1,000,000)Grand larceny in the first degree: New York Penal Code Section 155.42 (property in excess of $1,000,000)
Penalties and SentencingGrand larceny in the fourth degree: Class E felony. First-time offender: No minimum sentence, but it can be up to one and one-third to four years prison term. Alternatives: probation, probation with jail, community service, fines, conditional discharge.Grand larceny in the third degree: Class D felony. First-time offender: No minimum sentence, but up to two and one-third – seven years prison term. Alternatives: probation, probation with jail, community service, fines, conditional discharge.Grand larceny in the second degree: Class C felony. First-time offender: No minimum sentence, but up to five- fifteen years prison term. Alternatives: probation, probation with jail, community service, fines, conditional discharge.Grand larceny in the first degree: Class B felony. First-time offender: minimum of one- three years prison and a maximum possible prison term of twelve and one half to twenty-five years in prison; probation and community service are not available. Predicate felons: minimum of four and one half – nine years, maximum of twelve and one half- twenty-five years in state prison.
DefensesConsentMistake of fact lack of intent- did not intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently
Related ChargesJoyriding: New York Penal Code Sections 165.06 and 165.08

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What You Should Know

Theft of motor vehicles and similar offenses are serious charges. You should consult a local criminal defense attorney whenever you are facing a charge or require legal counsel. An attorney can describe the legal procedure, any legal defenses, and any particular difficulties your situation presents.

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