Auto Theft and Unauthorized Use of Vehicle in New York

December 15, 2021

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

There are many rules and regulations about the use of cars and other vehicles. In addition, various laws criminalize when a car is used without the owner’s permission or if it is stolen. In this blog, we talk about the various types of auto theft crimes in New York.


Types of Auto Theft

Sometimes called joyriding, use of a car without an owner’s consent is illegal. This type of auto theft is criminalized as Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree, and it is a class A misdemeanor. Similarly, this also includes if someone is allowed to use a vehicle at first, but intentionally fails to return it. It is also a misdemeanor if the car is used without permission by someone who has the car to provide maintenance or repair of the car, such as a mechanic.

This auto theft crime becomes an E felony if the person was previously convicted of unauthorized use within the preceding 10 years. Additionally, it is a D felony if the car used without permission is used to commit certain felonies or as a “getaway” vehicle.

Unauthorized use of a car is different from stealing it. When someone steals a car, that person doesn’t intend to return it to the rightful owner. This would be charged as Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, which is an E felony offense.

Often called carjacking, it is a very serious offense when a person is forcibly removed from their car and the vehicle is stolen. In New York, this is criminalized as Robbery in the Second Degree. As a C violent felony, such is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.


Auto Theft of Rental Vehicles

Recently, the news has reported that individuals have been arrested for auto theft of rental cars. Many of these people claim the cars weren’t stolen. Rather, they claim there was administrative error on the part of the rental company.

Larger rental companies have huge inventory and locations all over the country. As such, cars can be lost or misplaced by the company itself. In such cases, the company may report the car stolen to authorities. The company may also claim a car was stolen if there is an issue with payment of rental fees.

If you’re renting a vehicle, the best practice would be to keep your rental agreement with you. If you’re extending your rental agreement, get confirmation of such in writing. Keeping records of your arrangements with the rental company may help you fight a charge of auto theft.




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