Auto Theft Laws in Oklahoma

Like many states, a conviction for motor vehicle larceny or a related crime in Oklahoma can result in a serious prison sentence and substantial fines.

By , Attorney

Each state, including Oklahoma, has its own laws pertaining to motor vehicle theft and similar offenses, including carjacking and joyriding.

Theft (or Larceny) of a Motor Vehicle

A person commits larceny of an "automotive driven vehicle" by taking and carrying away an automobile, aircraft, or construction or farm equipment belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. For example, a professional thief who breaks into a car and steals it to take it to a chop shop has committed larceny.

Larceny of a motor vehicle constitutes a felony. If the stolen vehicle's value is less than $50,000, a guilty defendant faces up to five years in prison. However, if its value is $50,000 or greater, the offender is subject to three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1701, 1720 (2020).)

Carjacking

Carjacking is a type of robbery that involves taking a motor vehicle from a person's possession or in their immediate presence by means of force or fear. The law provides for different degrees of robbery, each with stiffer penalties.

First-degree robbery involves inflicting (or threatening to or making the victim fear) serious bodily injury or committing (or threatening to commit) a felony on the victim. Because most carjackings involve some type of force or fear, prosecutors usually charge them as first-degree robberies. Any person guilty of a first-degree robbery can be sentenced to at least ten years in prison.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 791, 797, 798 (2020).)

Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle

A person commits the crime of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle by taking, using, or driving a vehicle without the consent of the owner and with the intent to deprive the owner, temporarily or otherwise, of the vehicle or its possession. An offender guilty of this crime receives a felony conviction punishable by up to two years in prison.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 4-102 (2020).)

Joyriding

Joyriding—the least serious among the motor vehicle theft offenses—occurs when a person loiters in or on a vehicle in order to deface or injure it or to drive or attempt to drive it without consent. Joyriding constitutes a misdemeanor. A guilty defendant can sit in jail for up to a year and pay a fine of $100 to $500.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1787, 1788 (2020).)

Defenses

Two common defenses are used in motor vehicle theft cases. In the first, defendants argue they had (or believed they had) the owners' permission or consent to use the vehicle. The relevant question is not whether the defendant sometimes had permission to use the vehicle, but whether the defendant had permission to use the vehicle at the particular time in question. The second defense commonly raised is that the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, in which case the crime would be unauthorized use of a vehicle or joyriding instead of motor vehicle theft.

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Any criminal conviction can have serious consequences. If you are charged with or accused of any crime, including larceny of a motor vehicle or a similar offense, contact an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can guide you through the criminal justice system, explain your options, and defend your rights.

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