What are Defenses to Motor Vehicle Theft (Auto Larceny) Charges in North Carolina?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Should I ever plead guilty to a charge?”


Stealing a motor vehicle is a serious crime in North Carolina. In addition to auto theft charges, a person can be found guilty of a crime when he or she uses, damages, or misappropriates someone else’s vehicle.

unlock-your-dreams-Auto-larceny-grand-theft-auto-Charlotte-Monroe-Lake-Norman-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x226Interestingly, North Carolina does not have a special law that punishes motor vehicle theft as a distinct crime like other states do. Instead, stealing a vehicle in Charlotte or other parts of the state is prosecuted under North Carolina’s general crime of larceny.

In other words, if you took another person’s motor vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, you have committed the crime of larceny. Under North Carolina General Statutes section 14-72, larceny charges also apply if you receive or possess a stolen car.

Many people wrongly assume that there are no viable criminal defense options for someone facing motor vehicle theft charges in North Carolina. However, that is not correct. Speak with a Charlotte criminal defense attorney to identify the most optimal strategy for your situation or continue reading to find out what options may be available.


Police Looking for a Charlotte Man Who Stole a Homeowner’s Vehicle

Last Saturday, the Lansing State Journal reported that police were looking for a Charlotte man who reportedly attacked a homeowner and stole his vehicle. The 52-year-old man allegedly fled the scene after breaking into a Sebewa Township home.

Police responded to reports of a burglary near 11000 block of Keefer Highway just after 6 a.m. A homeowner found a stranger inside his house and took his pistol to confront the burglar. The suspect allegedly attacked the homeowner, which resulted in shots being fired, and wrestled the gun from the homeowner.

The attacker also robbed the homeowner of his car keys before fleeing the scene in the owner’s dark gray 2014 GMC Sierra pickup. Police issued an arrest warrant for the man and are looking for the stolen truck.


Potential Defenses to Auto Theft Charges in North Carolina

The most suitable defense to motor vehicle charges depends upon the circumstances of your case. These defenses are commonly used in criminal cases involving auto theft in North Carolina:

  • Consent. If you had or believed you had permission from the car’s owner to use the vehicle, the consent defense might be the most optimal strategy to avoid auto theft charges in your case. For example, if you had consent on one or more prior occasions, you may argue that you reasonably considered that consent was continuing.
  • The mistake of fact. If you used or borrowed a stolen vehicle without knowing that it was stolen, you are not committing the crime of motor vehicle theft in North Carolina.
  • Permanent deprivation. To be charged with vehicle larceny in North Carolina, the prosecutor is required to prove that you had the intent to permanently deprive the vehicle’s owner of its possession. If you had no intention of permanent deprivation, you are committing joyriding, not larceny.

A conviction for larceny in North Carolina can lead to probation, fines, jail time, and other penalties, which is why you need a Charlotte criminal defense attorney to fight against the vehicle larceny charges with the most appropriate defense strategy. Call our Charlotte offices at 704-370-2828 to identify the most reasonable defense strategy today to motor vehicle theft charges. If you find yourself facing vehicle larceny charges and need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.








The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.







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