Sacramento Motor Vehicle Theft Laws

Motor vehicle theft is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle. According to data collected by the California Highway Patrol and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, California leads in the number of motor vehicle theft with more than 150,000 cases reported annually.

Auto-theft in Sacramento and entire California may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the offense and the offender’s criminal history.

Data show that most auto-theft cases end up being charged as felonies. Motor vehicle theft laws are covered under the California Penal Code, Part 1, Title 13, Of Crimes against Property, Chapter 5, Larceny Theft, Section 487.

You will be charged with motor vehicle theft if:

  1. You take a car owned by someone else
  2. The vehicle was worth more than $950
  3. You took the vehicle without the owner’s permission
  4. You took the vehicle and kept it for a period of time with the intention of depriving the owner of the value and enjoyment of the vehicle.

Auto theft can be done through a purely mechanical means or by using false pretenses or trickery. Joyriding, however, is a separate crime from car theft and is usually charged as a misdemeanor.

Joyriding usually involves unauthorized and especially the reckless taking and driving of another’s vehicle for a period of time.

Motor vehicle theft is punishable by a jail term of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison. The offense can also attract a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

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