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New Jersey Auto Theft Laws

When a car is left running and unattended, or a spare key is left near the vehicle, then it could be very tempting for a thief to make a move. If you give in to temptation and and steal a car, you could be facing charges for violating auto theft laws.

In New Jersey the actual charges for auto theft are covered under the state's theft laws because the state doesn't have a separate statute for stealing a motor vehicle. However, the state does impose specific penalties when someone is convicted of auto theft or the unlawful taking of a car. Any person convicted of these crimes can be fined separately from the theft-associated fines. Additionally, the perpetrator's driving privileges may be suspended for up to 10 years.

New Jersey Auto Theft Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to New Jersey's auto theft laws, including links to important code sections.


  • New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-2.1, 2C:20-2b(b) (Theft)
  • New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-2.2 (Penalty)
  • New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-17 (Use of juvenile in auto theft)
  • New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-18 (Leader of auto theft trafficking network)

Penalties and Sentencing

Theft of a motor vehicle:

  • First offense: $500 fine and suspension or postponement of driver's license for 1 year.
  • Second offense: $750 fine and suspension or postponement of driver's license for 2 years.
  • Third offense: $1,000 fine and suspension or postponement of driver's license for 10 years.

Use of juvenile in auto theft: A person who is at least 18 years old who uses, solicits, hires or employs a person who is 17 years or younger to commit auto theft is guilty of a crime in the second degree.

Leader of an auto theft trafficking network: A person who conspires with others as a supervisor/organizer/financier or manager to engage in profit in a scheme to unlawfully take/dispose of distribute or transport stolen automobiles is guilty of a crime in the second degree. The court may impose a fine up to $250,000 or 5x the retail value of the cars, whichever is greater.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact
  • Consent
  • Lack of intent -- did not intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently.

Related Offenses

  • Carjacking: New Jersey Statutes 2C:15-2
  • Joyriding: New Jersey Statutes 2C:20-10

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Prohibited Consensual Activity Laws:

Contact an Experienced Attorney about Your Auto Theft Case

If you've been accused of auto theft in New Jersey, then you'll likely want to get help from an attorney who can mount a strategically sound defense on your behalf. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney located near you.

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