In New York, there are several criminal charges unique to the jurisdiction, whether it’s in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, or upstate in Rockland or Westchester County. The first of these not-so-obvious criminal statutes is Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, PL 165.05, 165.06 and 165.07. A person may be charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle when they take a vehicle without the consent of the owner. This may sound like simple stealing, covered by other crimes such as Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, PL 155.30(8). However, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle also covers situation where the person took possession of the vehicle lawfully, such as renting a car, but when that person then operates it outside the bounds of the rental agreement, such as keeping the car past the date it was due to be returned, or operating it outside of the are that the owner permitted it to be used. This could also apply in a situation where a person turns over their car to a mechanic for some repair work, and the mechanic takes the vehicle for joy-ride, or otherwise uses the car without the owner’s consent. Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, just like Petit Larceny, PL 155.25.
The charge can be elevated to the class E felony of Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Second Degree if the person charged has been convicted of the misdemeanor charge within the last ten years. This E felony is punishable by time in state’s prison, as well as probation and other non-prison sentences.
This charge can be elevated even further to Unauthorized use of a Vehicle in the First Degree. This statute applies when the person operating the car without the owner’s consent was doing so in order to commit another class A, B, C or D felony, or while escaping from the scene of where they committed an A, B, C or D felony. Unauthorized use of a Vehicle in the First Degree, PL 165.07, is a class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in state’s prison.
Another unusual category of criminal charges in New York that involves theft related to motor vehicles is Auto Stripping. While these charges can include more scenarios than this, it typically applies to exactly what it sounds like – situations in which a person is alleged to have stolen some item off of a motor vehicle, or “stripped” the car. The lowest level of these offenses is the A misdemeanor of Auto stripping in the Third Degree, PL 165.09, which is punishable by up to one year in jail. A person is guilty of this charge when they remove, destroy or deface some part of a vehicle. As you can see, this can be a theft of something like a hood ornament, or simply destroying the same thing. This can apply equally to abandoned vehicles.
This charge can be elevated to Auto Stripping in the Second Degree, PL 165.10, an E felony, when it is the person’s second such offense in the last five years, or when the person has destroyed, defaced, or damaged part of two or more vehicles, except for abandoned vehicles, and the value of the parts that were removed or damaged totals more than $1,000. This charge can be even further elevated to Auto Stripping in the First Degree if the defendant is alleged to have damaged or defaced three or more vehicles, not including abandoned vehicles, and the value of all the parts adds up to more than $3,000. This is a class D felony.
The nuances and peculiarities of these theft crimes related to motor vehicles can be complex, and having knowledge of the New York Penal Law and understanding the distinguishing aspects of these charges is extremely important.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, Auto Stripping, and other theft-related cases throughout the New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Bronx), as well as Rockland and Westchester Counties and throughout the Hudson Valley region.