Virginia Auto Theft Laws

If you steal a car in Virginia, you won't be facing the familiar "grand theft auto" charges. Because the state doesn't have a stand-alone car theft statute, Virginia's auto theft laws exist within the state's larceny (equivalent to theft) statute. Specifically, most car theft would be categorized as "grand larceny." To be guilty, the actor must:

  • Take another's property (valued at more than $200);
  • Without consent; and
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property rights.

Intent

Intent is a very important element to the crime. Without the actor's intent to deprive the car owner of their rights, then the crime could be considered "joyriding." For example, if a person takes a roommate's car without consent but only intends to use it temporarily, it would considered an unauthorized use of a vehicle (a lesser charge than grand larceny).

Use of Force

If you take a car by intimidating or scaring the owner into submission through force or violence, then the offense has shifted from larceny into robbery. This act constitutes carjacking under Virginia's statute.

Virginia Auto Theft Laws at a Glance

The value of being aware of every detail in a statute can't be underestimated, especially in the subject area of criminal law. Attorneys receive special training to be able to accomplish this. However, it's helpful for the nonlawyer to understand the law via a practical summary written in plain language. The chart below has been created to help explain Virginia's auto theft laws.

Statutes

  • Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-95 (larceny)
  • Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-102 (unauthorized use of a vehicle, aircraft, animal, boat)

Penalties and Sentencing

Auto Theft:

  • Car valued at less than $200: Considered petit larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by 12 months in jail and/or fines up to $2,500.
  • Car valued at least $200: Considered grand larceny, which is generally a felony in Virginia, punishable by incarceration in the range of 1- 20 years.
  • This offense may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor based on the discretion of juries and judges depending on the circumstances of the case including the defendant's criminal history.

Unauthorized use of a vehicle:

  • Car valued at less than $200: Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 1-year in jail and/or fines up to $2,500.
  • Car valued at $200 or more: 1-5 prison term and/or fines up to $2,500.

Possible Defenses

  • Consent
  • Mistake of fact
  • Lack of intent

Related Offenses

  • Carjacking: Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-58
  • Procuring a vehicle with intent to defraud: Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-206
  • Failure to return a vehicle: Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-117

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.

Virginia Auto Theft Laws: Related Resources

Don't Face Auto Theft Charges without An Attorney

If you're accused of auto theft in Virginia, then you probably want to work with an experienced professional who can evaluate the strength of the case against you. Contact a local criminal defense attorney who will advocate on your behalf.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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