Nevada NRS 205.228 sets forth the crime of grand larceny of a motor vehicle, commonly referred to as grand theft auto. A first-time offense is prosecuted as a category C felony, punishable by
- 1 to 5 years in prison,
- restitution to the victim, and
- fines of up to $10,000.00.
A common defense is that the defendant did not intentionally steal the car.
NRS 205.228 states that:
“A person who intentionally steals, takes and carries away, drives away or otherwise removes a motor vehicle owned by another person commits grand larceny of a motor vehicle.”
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is “grand larceny of a motor vehicle” in Nevada?
- 2. Can the judge order prison in NRS 205.228 cases?
- 3. How can the charges get dismissed?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. How soon can the criminal record get sealed?
- 6. Related offenses
1. What is “grand larceny of a motor vehicle” in Nevada?
Nevada’s legal definition of grand larceny of a motor vehicle applies when a person deliberately steals and takes away a vehicle.1
Typical auto theft scenarios include:
- Breaking and entering an unattended vehicle and driving it away by hot-wiring;
- When someone steals a car that was temporarily entrusted to him/her as part of their employment (for example, a valet or chauffeur);
- When someone who has access to the keys steals the car (such as the owner’s child or friend);
- Agreeing to buy a car but then taking it without paying – this is called “fraudulent theft”; or
- Failing to return a car rental (this could instead be prosecuted as embezzlement under NRS 205.300)
In short, auto theft in Nevada encompasses any situation where people take a car that does not belong to them without the permission of the owner. Charges for grand theft auto can still stand even if the suspect did not steal the keys, if the car doors were unlocked, or if the car was towed rather than driven away.1
2. Can the judge order prison in NRS 205.228 cases?
Yes. A first offense of grand larceny of a motor vehicle is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:
- A minimum term of one year to a maximum term of 5 years in state prison, and
- Up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion), and
- Restitution for the value of the motor vehicle
But a second vehicle larceny offense in five years is a category B felony, carrying:
- A minimum term of one year to a maximum term of six years in prison, and
- Up to $5,000 in fines, and
- Restitution for the value of the motor vehicle2
3. How can the charges get dismissed?
The three most common strategies for fighting the charge include these arguments:
- The car belonged to the suspect. A person should not be found guilty of stealing a car that legally belongs to him/her. Title and registration records could be used as evidence to show that the defendant owned the vehicle.
- No theft occurred. This defense is especially strong in cases where no eyewitnesses saw the alleged theft and where the car is never found in the defendant’s possession. As long as the prosecuting attorneys cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal charges cannot stand.
- The defendant borrowed with permission. If someone genuinely believed they had permission to borrow the car, then nothing unlawful took place. This is a tougher defense to prove because it involves demonstrating the suspect’s state of mind. Recorded communications such as text messages as well as eyewitness accounts may come in as evidence to show that there was no intention to commit grand larceny of the motor vehicle.
4. Are there immigration consequences?
Car theft is considered an aggravated felony.3 Consequently, non-citizens convicted of it face deportation from the U.S. after serving their sentence.
Immigrants charged with any crime should retain experienced legal counsel immediately. It may be possible to get the charges reduced to a non-deportable offense or dropped completely.
5. How soon can the criminal record get sealed?
Auto theft convictions must stay on the defendant’s record for five years. Once the five years have elapsed, the defendant can ask the court for a record seal.
There is no waiting period to petition for a record seal if the auto theft charge was dismissed.4 Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.
6. Related offenses
6.1. Possession of a stolen vehicle
Knowingly possessing a stolen vehicle (NRS 205.273) is a crime even if the defendant was not the person who originally stole it. The offense is a category C felony, carrying 1 to 5 years in prison, restitution for the value of the property, and possibly up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion).
Carjacking is a more serious offense than straight auto theft because it involves the suspect attempting to take a car by force, violence or threats. In cases of alleged carjacking, the suspect faces charges for not only the property crime of auto theft but also robbery (NRS 200.380), battery (NRS 200.481), and/or assault (NRS 200.471).
6.3. Shooting a firearm from a car
Discharging a gun from a vehicle (NRS 202.287) in a populated area is a category B felony, carrying 2 to 15 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Otherwise, firing a gun from a car is a misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Also see our articles on chop shop criminal offenses, petit larceny (NRS 205.240), shoplifting, possession of stolen property (NRS 205.275), domestic violence, grand larceny of a firearm (NRS 205.226), identity theft, obtaining money by false pretenses (NRS 205.380).
In California? Learn about grand theft automobile law (487d1 PC).
In Colorado? Learn about aggravated motor vehicle theft (18-4-409 C.R.S.).
- Nevada Revised Statute 205.228; Doolin v. State Dep’t of Corr. (2018) 440 P.3d 53, 134 Nev. Adv. Rep. 98.
- Id.; NRS 193.130. Under prior law, penalties depended on whether the stolen vehicle was worth $3,500 or more.
- 8 USC 1101, subsection (a)(43).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.