Vehicle Theft / Grand Theft Auto

While many of us have likely heard of the controversial yet popular video game Grand Theft Auto, we may not know the actual consequences of committing this criminal offense in Weddington, North Carolina. In fact, under state law, stealing a motor vehicle increases the criminal charges from simple theft to grand theft auto. Grand theft auto carries much heavier penalties than simple theft. While North Carolina legislators have not passed a law that makes vehicle theft a separate offense, local courts as well as attorneys often use the term larceny of a motor vehicle when addressing vehicle theft.

Grand Theft

Generally, theft crimes may be separated into two different categories - petty theft and grand theft. Petty theft offenses are typically charged as misdemeanors, and are punishable by up to one year in jail. Grand theft offenses, on the other hand, are typically charged as felonies, and are punishable by at least one year in jail. Unlike petty theft, grand theft generally involves the theft of property that is valued over a certain dollar amount - commonly between $500 and $1,000. In states where grand theft auto is not charged as a separate offense, vehicle theft is always considered grand theft no matter how much the vehicle is worth.

Vehicle Theft Charges in Weddington

Motor vehicle thefts in Weddington are prosecuted under North Carolina’s general larceny or theft statute because there is no distinct and separate law addressing vehicle theft in the state. Under the general statute addressing larceny or theft, if the property (or vehicle) is valued at more than $1,000, the crime is considered a misdemeanor offense. That being said, another section of North Carolina law makes it a felony to possess a stolen vehicle regardless of its monetary value. In other words, if someone steals a vehicle in North Carolina, even if it is worth less than $1,000.00, he or she can still be charged with a felony. If the property (or vehicle) is worth more than $1,000.00, then the larceny is considered a felony. North Carolina’s laws are different than the majority of other states in the country; most states prosecute vehicle theft as its own, separate and distinct criminal charge regardless of the actual value of the vehicle.

Larceny of a Motor Vehicle

While North Carolina law does not have a separate and distinct charge for vehicle theft, it is often referred to as such. The computer system used by North Carolina magistrate judges to create arrest and charging documents in criminal cases even includes a separate “larceny of a motor vehicle” form. For this reason, if law enforcement arrests an individual for stealing some other property that is not a vehicle - for example, a computer - the arrest warrant will only read ‘larceny.’ If the law enforcement officer arrests an individual for stealing a car, the arrest warrant will likely read ‘larceny of a motor vehicle.’ This is the case even though both arrests would be charged under North Carolina’s general larceny statute. This procedural distinction between the two thefts creates the false perception that they are separate and distinct criminal charges.

The bottom line is that despite North Carolina not technically having a statute addressing grand theft auto, the effect of the state’s laws are essentially the same as those in other states where the value of the vehicle determines the seriousness of the crime (i.e., misdemeanor versus felony). Notably, additional statutory law allows for a person to be charged with a felony regardless of the value of the vehicle stolen.

Other Car-Related Offenses

The state of North Carolina has expressly criminalized a number of vehicle-related theft crimes. These including the following:

  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle: Unauthorized use of an aircraft is a class H felony, while unauthorized use of any other motor-propelled vehicle is a class 1 misdemeanor. Sometimes referred to as “joyriding,” unauthorized use is different from larceny of a motor vehicle (i.e., grand theft auto) because the person who committed the offense does not intend to permanently keep the vehicle and deprive the owner of possession.
  • Felony theft of car parts: If the cost of the repair of the vehicle would be more than $1,000.00 as a result of the theft of the parts, the offense is considered a class 1 felony;
  • Larceny of a motor fuel: When the theft is worth less than $1,000.00 of gasoline, it is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. That being said, more than one conviction of larceny of motor fuel will result in the individual’s driver’s license being revoked;
  • Possession, receipt, or transfer of a stolen vehicle: Knowing, or having reason to believe, that the vehicle was taken illegally and still coming into possession, receipt, or transfer of the stolen vehicle is a class H felony.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Weddington involving vehicle theft, or if you are facing any other criminal charges, contact an attorney today. The experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are familiar with applicable laws and will mount the best defense for you.