NRS 205.273 is the Nevada crime that makes it a category C felony to knowingly possess a stolen car. Penalties include one to five years in prison, restitution, and possibly up to $10,000 in fines. A common defense is that the defendant did not know that the vehicle was stolen.
NRS 205.273 states:
A person commits an offense involving a stolen vehicle if the person:
(a) With the intent to procure or pass title to a motor vehicle which the person knows or has reason to believe has been stolen, receives or transfers possession of the vehicle from or to another person; or
(b) Has in his or her possession a motor vehicle which the person knows or has reason to believe has been stolen.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What does NRS 205.273 prohibit?
- 2. What is the penalty for possessing a stolen vehicle in Nevada?
- 3. How can a defense attorney fight the charges?
- 4. What if the defendant is an immigrant?
- 5. When can the criminal record be sealed?
1. What does NRS 205.273 prohibit?
NRS 205.273 makes it a Nevada crime for a person to knowingly receive, possess, or pass title to a vehicle the person knows – or reasonably should know – is stolen.
Example: Josh knows Mike has no money. One day Mike shows up and asks Josh to store Mike’s new Mercedes in Josh’s garage. Josh agrees.
If it turns out that Mike’s Mercedes is stolen, then Josh could be charged with possessing a stolen vehicle. Even though Mike never admitted to stealing the car, Josh reasonably should have known that Mike stole it because of his financial situation. (And Mike could be charged with grand larceny of a motor vehicle (NRS 205.228) for stealing the Mercedes.)
In short, it illegal in Nevada for a person to have physical control over a stolen vehicle, even if that person was not the one who stole it. All that matters is the person knows that the vehicle has been wrongfully taken from its true owner.1
2. What is the penalty for possessing a stolen vehicle in Nevada?
Knowingly having a stolen automobile is a category C felony in Nevada. The punishment is:
- A minimum term of 1 year to a maximum term of 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Restitution payments to the victim for the value of the vehicle, and
- Up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)2
The defendant would also have to agree to forfeiture of the vehicle.
3. How can a defense attorney fight the charges?
The following are three potential arguments a criminal defense lawyer can use when fighting charges for possessing a stolen car:
- The defendant did not know the car was stolen. Criminal charges do not apply as long as the defendant did not know – or reasonably should not have known – that the vehicle had been stolen. Common evidence defense attorneys use to show what the defendant knew – or what a reasonable person should have known – includes text messages, emails, voicemails, and eyewitnesses. Unless the D.A. can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dropped.3
- The defendant did not possess the car. If there was never a point in time when the defendant owned or had physical control over the vehicle in question, then by definition the defendant cannot be guilty of possessing it. Even surveillance video that shows the defendant near a stolen vehicle does not necessarily mean that he/she possessed it.
- The police committed misconduct. Law enforcement must abide by the Fourth Amendment when executing searches and seizures. If the police may have uncovered evidence through an illegal search, then the defense attorney would ask the court do disregard that evidence. If the judge grants this motion to suppress evidence, there is a good chance the prosecuting attorneys will drop charges for possession of the stolen vehicle due to insufficient proof.
4. What if the defendant is an immigrant?
Receiving, transferring, or possessing a stolen vehicle in Nevada is an aggravated felony.4 Therefore, non-citizens convicted of it could be deported from the U.S. following their sentence.
Immigrants facing criminal charges are encouraged to seek out experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. A defense attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges or lessen them to a non-deportable offense.
5. When can the criminal record be sealed?
A conviction for having a stolen car must stay on the defendant’s record for five years. After that, the defendant may petition the court for a record seal.
Note that if the charge gets dismissed – meaning that there is no conviction – then there is no waiting period. The defendant can pursue a record seal immediately.5
Also see our article on Nevada chop shop laws (NRS 205.2745).
- Nevada Revised Statute 205.273; Palmer v. State (1996) 112 Nev. 763, 920 P.2d 112, 112 Nev. Adv. Rep. 96.
- Id; NRS 193.130; NRS 205.0834 (Determination of value of a vehicle for the purposes of this section: “The amount involved in a theft shall be deemed to be the highest value, by any reasonable standard, of the property or services which are obtained.”).
- Montes v. State (1979) 95 Nev. 891, 603 P.2d 1069.
- 8 USC 1101(a)(43).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179; 255.