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Minnesota Auto Theft Laws

The offense of theft is generally defined as taking someone's property with the intent to permanently deprive them of what was taken. However, specific definitions of theft vary by jurisdiction as well as its degrees which are often based on the value of the property involved. State laws also differ in how they address specific forms of theft, like auto theft. Some states have a separate statute for the crime, while others simply address it under their general theft codes.

Minnesota doesn't have a separate auto theft statute, but the state's general theft statute does specifically name the theft of a motor vehicle as a prohibited act. Besides motor vehicles, the statue also criminalizes the theft of motor fuel.

Unlike some jurisdictions, Minnesota doesn't have a joyriding statute. Because the motor vehicle theft provision requires that the perpetrator takes or drives the vehicle without the owner's consent, individuals who just want to ride in a car for a few hours can be charged for theft if they don't have permission to use the vehicle even if they're not planning on permanently depriving the owner of the vehicle.

It's also important to note that auto theft is treated differently than other thefts in Minnesota where the actual charges and penalties depend on the value of the property involved: If you steal a car in the state, you're automatically charged with a felony, regardless of its value.

An Explanation of Minnesota Auto Theft Laws

It's advisable to work with a lawyer to get the most accurate interpretation of a statute. However, prior to consulting with counsel or for a quick reference, you can read a condensed version of the law written in clear language. The chart below is a concise explanation of Minnesota's auto theft laws.


Minnesota Statutes:

  • Section 609.52 (Theft)
  • Section 609.546 (Motor Vehicle Tampering)

Elements of the Crime



Motor Vehicle Theft: Taking or driving a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner (or an authorized agent), while knowing or having reason to know that the owner or the agent didn't give consent.

Motor Fuel Theft: Intentionally taking motor fuel from a retailer without the retailer's consent, with the intent to deprive the retailer permanently of possession of the fuel by driving a motor vehicle from the retailer's premises without having paid for the fuel dispensed into the vehicle.

Proof that the driver drove the vehicle from the premises of the retailer without having paid is enough to infer that the driver acted intentionally and with the intent to deprive the retailer permanently of possession of the fuel.

However, this is not applicable under the following conditions:

  • Payment is made to the retailer within 30 days of the receipt of notice of nonpayment; or
  • Written notice disputing the retailer's claim was sent to the owner of a motor vehicle if the vehicle or the vehicle's license plate has been reported stolen before the theft of the fuel.

Penalty: Imprisonment for not more than 5 years, payment of fines up to $10,000, or both.

Motor Vehicle Tampering

An individual commits motor vehicle tampering (a misdemeanor) if they intentionally:

  • Ride in or on a motor vehicle knowing that the vehicle was taken and is being driven by another without the owner's permission; or
  • Tamper with or enter into or on a motor vehicle without the owner's permission.

Related Offenses

Minnesota Statutes:

  • Section 609.24 (Simple Robbery)
  • Section 609.245 (Aggravated Robbery)

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.

Minnesota Auto Theft Laws: Related Resources

Speak with a Minnesota Attorney About Auto Theft Charges

If you've been accused of auto theft in Minnesota, don't discount the severity of the charges. You could be facing time behind bars. Any time incarceration is a factor, you should make sure that you discuss your case with an experienced defense attorney who can evaluate the strength of the evidence against you and can help you plan your next steps.

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