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North Carolina Auto Theft Laws

If you steal a car in North Carolina, you won't face the familiar charge of "grand theft auto." Rather, you would be prosecuted under the state's larceny or theft statute because North Carolina, unlike many other states, does not prosecute motor vehicle theft as a separate offense.

Under the general larceny statute, if you steal any property (including a vehicle) that is valued at $1,000 or less, then the larceny is considered a misdemeanor. However, this does not mean that if you steal an $800 car in Charlotte that you will just be looking at a misdemeanor.

Although there is no named offense of motor vehicle theft, there is a law that makes it a felony to possess a stolen vehicle regardless of its value. With this law in effect, it's pretty much guaranteed that you will be facing felony charges. However, the law makes a distinction between larceny and joyriding, which is considered an authorized use of a motor vehicle and is a misdemeanor. In this instance, you do not have the intent to deprive the owner of his or her vehicle rights; you borrowed the car or used it temporarily without the owner's permission.

North Carolina Auto Theft Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to North Carolina's auto theft laws, including links to important code sections.


  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-72 (Larceny)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-60 (Receiving or transferring stolen vehicles)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-72.2 (Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle)

Penalties and Sentencing

  • North Carolina uses a complex sentencing formula; your possible sentence depends on the specific circumstances of your case and your criminal record. The following are general sentencing guidelines.
  • Most auto theft larcenies are considered a Class H felony, which is punishable by the range of 4-25 months incarceration.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact
  • Consent
  • Lack of intent -did not intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently.

Related Offenses

  • Larceny of motor fuel: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-72.5
  • Felony larceny of motor vehicle parts: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-72.8
  • Chop shop activity: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-72.7

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.

North Carolina Auto Theft Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Your Auto Theft Case with an Experienced Attorney

If you've been accused of auto theft or a related crime, then you should not take it lightly since you are likely facing felony charges. Because of North Carolina's convoluted sentencing formula, you may want to discuss your case with an experienced attorney since individual factors and your criminal history will determine your penalties. Connect with a local attorney today.

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