Tennessee Motor Vehicle Theft Laws

Stealing a motor vehicle is often viewed as "car theft," but the term "motor vehicles" encompass a broad range of vehicles that also includes motor scooters, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles. If you do engage in motor vehicle theft, your charges and penalties will depend on the state law where the vehicle was taken.

If you boost a car or SUV in Tennessee, you could be facing charges for theft, but not for the familiar "grand theft auto" offense because the state doesn't have a separate motor vehicle theft statute. Any theft is subject under penalties from Tennessee's general theft laws.

Overview of Tennessee Motor Vehicle Theft Laws

Beginning your legal research with a plain English guide is a way to better understand the meaning of a statute when before reading the law in its entirety. See the chart below for an overview of motor vehicle theft laws in Tennessee, including links for the relevant code sections.

Statute

Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 39-14-105

 

 

Elements of the Crime

Theft

In Tennessee, you commit a theft of property when you knowingly obtain or exercise control over another's property without consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.

Joyriding

If you take someone's automobile, bicycle, boat, or other vehicle (without the owner's consent, but not with the intent of depriving the owner of property rights), you can be charged with a different Class A misdemeanor offense that is considered "joyriding."

Carjacking

If you intentionally or knowingly take a motor vehicle from another person using force or intimidation or a deadly weapon, then you can be charged with carjacking. Carjacking, an offense more serious than theft, is a Class B felony, punishable by incarceration of up to 30 years.

Possible Penalties

The penalties are based on the property value of the property involved.

  • $500 or less: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by incarceration of up to 11 months and/or fines up to $2,500.
  • $500 to $1,000: Class E felony, punishable by incarceration of 1-6 years and/or fines up to $3,000.
  • $1,000 to $10,000: Class D felony, punishable by incarceration of 2-12 years and/or fines up to $5,000.
  • $10,000 to $60,000: Class C felony, punishable by incarceration of 3-15 years and/or fines up to $10,000.
  • $60,000 to $250,000: Class B felony, punishable by incarceration of incarceration of 8-30 years and/or fines up to $25,000.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact
  • Affirmative defenses: honest claim of right, honest belief to exercise control of the property, honest belief that owner would consent.

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.

Tennessee Motor Vehicle Theft Laws: Related Resources

Contact a Tennessee Attorney about Motor Vehicle Theft

If you've been accused of motor vehicle theft in Tennessee, you could be facing costly fines or jail time, depending on the property value of the vehicle involved. Get peace of mind by contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney today to discuss your case.

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