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Las Vegas is always close to the top of the national list of cities with the most cars stolen per capita. In fact, in 2006, Las Vegas was number one in the whole country for auto thefts, with 22,441 vehicles stolen that year—a rate of 1,311 automobiles stolen for every 100,000 residents. Because car thefts have been such a significant problem for Las Vegas, the Clark County District Attorney takes these cases very seriously, and if you have been charged with grand larceny of a motor vehicle, you should contact a criminal defense attorney now. Read about this crime below, including the potential punishment for an auto theft conviction, and how a criminal defense lawyer can help you.


Nevada's auto theft statute is NRS 205.228. This crime, grand larceny of motor vehicle, is defined by statute as intentionally stealing, taking and carrying away, driving away, or otherwise removing a motor vehicle owned by another person. This is the statutory definition of grand larceny motor vehicle, but it does not actually refer to one missing element: the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the vehicle.

To constitute felony auto theft, the taking of the automobile must be done with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. In other words, if a person intends to merely borrow someone else's car with plans to return it at some later time, he does not commit grand larceny of a motor vehicle when he takes the car (even if he was not authorized by the vehicle's owner to move the car). A person who temporarily takes someone's automobile without permission would, however, be liable for a lesser, non-felony offense of "unlawful taking of vehicle" under NRS 205.2715. This statute covers a "joy riding" situation where someone takes a car temporarily without permission but doesn't intend to keep the car permanently.


In an auto theft case, the potential criminal penalties vary based on the value of the car or truck allegedly stolen. If the value of the vehicle is less than $3,500, then the offense is a category C felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in Nevada prison and a $10,000 fine. If the value of the automobile is $3,500 or more, then the crime is a category B felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Grand larceny of a motor vehicle is a probationable offense, meaning that if you are convicted of committing this crime, the judge may exercise discretion and suspend the sentence rather than imposing prison time. Whether a person receives probation is based on many factors, including the defendant's prior record.

Because of the great difference in potential punishment based on the value of the stolen vehicle, you may wonder how the value of a vehicle is determined. Pursuant to NRS 205.251, the value of the stolen vehicle "shall be deemed to be the highest value attributable to the property by any reasonable standard." The Nevada Supreme Court has determined that the "fair market value" of the vehicle is a "reasonable standard" for determining the potential punishment. This means that the value of the stolen vehicle, for the purposes of punishment enhancement, will be based upon what a reasonable buyer would pay for the vehicle of the same model and condition.

In addition to any term of incarceration or probation and any fine imposed, a person convicted of grand larceny of a motor vehicle will be ordered to pay the alleged victim restitution, equal to the damage done to the car, or the value of the entire vehicle if the car is not recovered.


In Las Vegas, felony car theft cases are prosecuted by the Clark County District Attorney. These cases are taken very seriously by the DA's office, and can often result in prison time. So if you or someone you care about has been accused of stealing a car in Las Vegas, it is important to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Remember, the prosecutor has a high burden of proof. To be convicted of grand larceny auto or any other criminal offense, the DA must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is reasonable doubt in your case, or if there is a way to suppress illegally obtained evidence, this may provide an opportunity to resolve your case favorably. But even if the DA has strong evidence against you, this doesn't mean we can't get a favorable resolution to your case. Most cases end with plea negotiations rather than trial, and many serious cases can be resolved to avoid the harshest criminal penalties.

I have helped many people accused of grand larceny of motor vehicles in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, Nevada. I can help you too. Call me now on my personal cell phone number and we can begin to plan for your defense.

By Michael Pandullo

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