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Charged with Auto Theft in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, auto theft is considered grand theft, a felony offense punishable by fines up to $10,000 and a prison sentence up to five years or more.

Minnesota Auto Theft Laws

All types of thefts are considered serious offenses in Minnesota, but auto theft carries significant penalties because it is considered grand theft. Like most states, theft in Minnesota is punished based on the value of the stolen property. If the property is valued over $1,000, the theft is considered a felony offense, usually punishable with jail time.

Minnesota auto theft falls under broader statutes that define theft as the taking of another person’s property. To be found guilty of theft, the offender must know, or have reason to know, that the owner of the property did not give his/her consent to take the property. Auto theft statutes specifically prohibit taking or driving another person’s vehicle without the owner’s consent. Auto theft falls under several distinct categories in Minnesota:


Carjacking is defined as taking a vehicle from a driver by force or threat that may involve physical violence or a weapon. Although Minnesota does not have specific statutes for carjacking, it is considered a serious offense that’s often prosecuted under state robbery laws.


In most states, joyriding is treated as a less serious crime than theft, because the offender does not typically keep the vehicle permanently. However, Minnesota’s auto theft laws only consider that the offender took the vehicle without the owner’s permission, not that he/she may plan to return it. Joyriding offenses often involve underage drivers who take a parent’s, relative’s, or friend’s vehicle without permission.

Failure to Return a Rental Car

Under Minnesota laws, failure to return a rental car is considered auto theft, even if the car was rented legally by a licensed driver. A driver who fails to return a rental car and has no communication with the rental car company about the return can face grand theft auto charges.

In Minnesota, auto theft charges carry stiff penalties including fines up to $10,000. a five-year prison term, and the cost of damages to the stolen vehicle. If the vehicle is valued over $5,000, or if aggravating factors such as drunk driving are present, penalties may be enhanced. If charged with grand theft auto in Minnesota, a criminal law attorney will be necessary to navigate the charges and provide a proper criminal defense.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

People facing criminal charges in Minnesota often ask, “Can you defend yourself in court?” You can represent yourself in court when charged with a crime. Self-representation, however, is not typically in the accused's best interests, even if courts allow it.
Parents whose children have been arrested or accused of committing a heinous crime might wonder, “Can a minor be charged with a felony?” A minor aged 14 years or older but below 18 years may face felony charges in Minnesota.
People accused of or under investigation for assault might ask, “What are the charges for assault?” Minnesota has five levels of assault charges. First-degree assault is the most serious offense, and a conviction often results in the most severe penalties, like long prison time and hefty fines.