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.

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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.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and 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. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.