Cars get stolen quite frequently, and Minnesota is no exception. In fact, authorities have been warning residents of the Twin Cities not to leave their cars running and unattended, no matter how brief. Car theft happens in the blink of an eye.
Twin Cities authorities stated that in the first month of 2021, 450 cars were stolen. Of those, three-fourths were left unattended and running – creating an ready opportunity for car thieves.
No matter how easily a car is stolen, it doesn’t go unpunished in Minnesota. In fact, Minnesota has auto theft programs funded by tax dollars to help reduce car theft numbers.
If you are caught stealing a car, then you can face some harsh penalties. Here’s what you need to know.
Auto Theft Laws in Minnesota
While all theft carries a penalty in Minnesota, auto theft is considered grand theft because of the high value of vehicles. Following suit with many crimes, the level and type of theft is directly related to the value of the property taken.
In Minnesota, auto theft falls under the umbrella of broader theft laws. These laws define the crime as “the taking of someone else’s property.” In order to be found guilty, it must be shown that the offender knew or should have reasonably known that the property owner didn’t give their consent for the property to be taken. Statutes around auto theft specifically mention driving or taking the vehicle of another person without their consent.
There are several types of auto theft in Minnesota. They are:
Carjacking occurs when a vehicle is taken from its owner by threat or force. It can involve a weapon or not.
Failure to Return a Rental Car
If you don’t return a rental car, it can be considered auto theft, even if the car was rented legally. If you fail to return the car at the agreed-upon time without contacting the rental car company, you can face charges of grand theft auto.
Minnesota treats joyriding with more harshness than other states. While it may not be the joyrider’s intent to deprive the owner of their car permanently, Minnesota law emphasizes that the vehicle was taken without the owner’s permission.
The simplest scenario: a vehicle is taken without permission, and the intent of the person taking it was to deprive the owner of the property permanently. This, of course, constitutes auto theft.
Minnesota bases the punishment for the crime on the value of the vehicle in question. An act of vehicle theft has a maximum penalty of five years if the vehicle is valued at $5,000 or less. If the value is over $5,000, then up to 10 years can be served.
Minnesota Auto Theft Prevention
Minnesota touts a unique Auto Theft Prevention Program, funded by a surcharge from automobile insurance coverage. It helps provide funding for local programs that tackle the problem from several angles. They educate officers about auto theft, identify important issues related to auto theft, and enhance collaboration between law enforcement and agencies that actively work to reduce auto theft in the state.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).