Updated July 1, 2020
Stealing a car is a serious felony in Nevada carrying high fines, prison sentences and a marred criminal record that greatly diminishes your chances of getting a job. Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the definition, penalties, and defenses of the Nevada crime of auto theft.
The legal definition of grand larceny of a motor vehicle in Las Vegas, Nevada, applies when someone “intentionally steals, takes and carries away, drives away or otherwise removes a motor vehicle owned by another person”.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 them as part of their employment (i.e. 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.”
- Failing to return a car rental
In short, auto-theft in Nevada encompasses any situation where someone takes a car that does not belong to him/her without permission. Grand larceny of a car charges can still stand even if the suspect has the keys, if the doors were unlocked, if the car was towed away rather than driven, or if the suspect planned to return the car eventually.
The Las Vegas crime of carjacking is a more serious offense than straight auto-theft because it involves the suspect attempting to take a car by force, violence or threat. In cases of alleged carjacking, the suspect faces charges for not only the property crime of auto-theft but also the Nevada crime of robbery, battery, and/or assault.
Every Nevada auto-theft case is different, and which defenses would work best will be determined by your attorney based on the situation and evidence. The most common strategies for fighting an NRS 205.228 violation include:
- 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 might be used as evidence.
- 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 suspect’s possession.
- You borrowed with permission. If someone genuinely believed he/she had permission to borrow the car, then no auto theft took place. This is a tougher defense to prove because it involves demonstrating the suspect’s state of mind. Circumstantial evidence such as how, where and when the car was taken may come in to suggest that there was no intention to steal.
Grand larceny of a motor vehicle is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:
- 1 – 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion), and
A second-offense in five years is a category B felony in Nevada carrying:
- 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion), and
Depending on the case, the prosecutor may agree to a plea bargain for reduced fines or an extended payment plan.
Also see our article on the Nevada crime of chop shops.
In California? Learn about grand theft automobile law (487d1 PC).
In Colorado? Learn about aggravated motor vehicle theft (18-4-409 C.R.S.).