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Pennsylvania Auto Theft Laws

Although each state has its own specific definition of theft, it's generally defined as the taking of someone else's property without permission, and with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property. Pennsylvania separates different types of theft into different statutes. Theft of an automobile falls into more than one of Pennsylvania's theft statutes depending on the circumstances.

Defining Theft in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has several categories of theft including (but are not limited to): theft by deception, theft by extortion, theft of services, and retail theft. The grading and subsequent sentencing of theft offenses will depend on the circumstances surrounding the theft, and the value and characteristics of the stolen property. For example, it's a felony of the second degree if the property stolen is:

  • a firearm;
  • anhydrous ammonia;
  • valued between $100,000 and $500,000; or
  • taken during a natural, war-caused, or manmade disaster.

Pennsylvania Auto Theft Laws Overview

Below you will find key provisions of auto theft laws in Pennsylvania.


Title 18, Section 3702 (robbery of a motor vehicle)

Title 18, Section 3921 (theft by unlawful taking or disposition)


Theft of an automobile can fall under two different statutes depending on the circumstances:

  • Robbery of motor vehicle (§ 3702): Stealing or taking a motor vehicle from another person in the presence of that person or any other person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle (first degree felony).
  • Theft by unlawful taking or disposition (§ 3921): Unlawfully taking, or exercising unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive thereof. It is a third degree felony to steal an automobile.

Conviction under Pennsylvania's laws relating to auto theft can result in imprisonment and fines.

  • Violation of § 3702 can result in a prison term up to 20 years and an imposition of fines up to $25,000*.
  • Violation of § 3921 can result in a prison term up to 7 years and an imposition of fines up to $15,000.

*Additionally, violation of § 3702 can result in sentencing enhancement pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A § 2154.

Related Statute

Title 18, Section 3928 (unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles). Note: It's a defense to prosecution under this section if the actor reasonably believed that the owner would've consented to the operation had he or she known of it.

Title 18, Section 3925 (receiving stolen property)

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.

Pennsylvania Auto Theft Laws: Related Resources

For more information related to this topic, please click on the links below:

Get Legal Help with Your Pennsylvania Auto Theft Case

Theft can be a serious crime, especially auto theft, with significant penalties. If you or someone you know has been charged with auto theft in Pennsylvania, you may want to contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and protect your rights.

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