Auto Theft Laws in Arizona

Motor vehicle theft crimes are classified under three different types under Arizona law:

  • theft of means of transportation
  • unlawful use of means of transportation
  • unlawful failure to return rented or leased property

“Means of transportation” refers to any type of vehicle, whether it is a car, a truck or a motorcycle. A crime of theft of means of transportation is committed in Arizona when a person knowingly, without legal authority, does any of the following:

  • taking control of someone’s vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that vehicle
  • converting someone’s vehicle for an unauthorized use or period of time when the vehicle is entrusted to them for a specific time period
  • obtaining someone’s vehicle unlawfully, using a material misrepresentation, lie or fraud, with the intention to deprive the owner of that vehicle
  • taking over a vehicle as their own personal property after it has been delivered to them by mistake and making no effort to inform the actual owner, especially when the owner’s information is available
  • taking control of a vehicle knowingly that it is stolen

Theft of means of transportation is considered a class 3 felony in Arizona which carries a basic sentence of 2 – 7 years in prison. If the defendant has prior felony convictions, then the sentence can be higher.

Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation

If a person commits a crime of unlawful use of means of transportation, also called joyriding, then they will be charged with a class 5 felony. If it involves riding or being in a stolen or misappropriated vehicle, then it will be classified as a Class 6 felony.

Joyriding consists of any of the following acts without the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the vehicle:

  • knowingly taking control of the vehicle without authorization
  • knowingly riding the vehicle or knowingly having control of the vehicle even when they know they are not legally authorized to have possession of the car

With prior felony convictions, the sentence and penalties will increase for a repeat or subsequent offense.

Unlawful Failure to Return Rented or Leased Property

When a person rents a motor vehicle in Arizona and fails to return it to the lender within 72 hours of the agreed upon return time without notice and permission from the owner, they can be charged with unlawful failure to return rented or leased property. This is a Class 5 felony and is punishable by six months to two years imprisonment.

When someone has committed the crime of unlawful failure to return a rented or leased property, including a motor vehicle, they need to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney in order to come up with a realistic defense strategy. Some of the defenses that can be used include:

  • the defendant was physically incapacitated or was unable to request or secure permission from the owner to keep the property longer
  • the defendant could not return the property on time because of its poor condition

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing a conviction for an Arizona motor vehicle crime will have to defend a felony charge. Without proper defense, the felony conviction will become part of their permanent criminal record. Any similar offenses after that will be considered repeat offenses and will carry heavier penalties. Moreover, a felony conviction will hurt them when they are looking for a job, going for higher studies, or even looking for a house or apartment for rent. Convicted felons also lose their right to vote and carry firearms. They may also lose their professional license. Therefore, it is extremely necessary to contact a criminal defense attorney in Arizona if you are facing an Arizona motor vehicle crime charge. Contact the Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan at 480-900-0384 or 602-900-0384 for a Free Initial Consultation.

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Brian Douglas Sloan


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“I am one of only a handful of Phoenix DUI Lawyers that focuses solely on DUI Defense representation.”

I have spent my entire career focused on DUI Defense representation, having personally defended more than 4,100+ DUI clients in the past 18+ years.

If you’re looking for a divorce attorney, tax attorney, or civil attorney, then I can comfortably say: "I’m not the one for you".

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What I offer is intelligent, quality DUI Defense, at an exceptional price.

I am one of only a handful of Arizona DUI Lawyers that focuses solely on DUI Defense representation.

I have not only taught other lawyers how to do DUI Defense Representation at statewide seminars, but I produce DUI Legal Guides used by defense lawyers across Arizona.

I am one of the most award-winning DUI Defense Lawyers in Arizona; have been recognized nationally, including in a 2022 issue of USA Today; and there are only a few lawyers in Arizona who have personally defended more DUI cases than I have. I am also one of the most reasonably-priced DUI Lawyers, as I pride myself on charging a Flat Rate only for the legal services you need, and not for the legal services you don’t.

I am also the lawyer who people call once they realize that their original lawyer screwed something up, gave them false hope or false promises, or simply just took their money and didn’t do much on the case. You would be surprised at how often this happens.

Save yourself the trouble of hiring the wrong lawyer, and hire the right DUI Defense Lawyer from the start.

You can reach me on my personal cell phone: 480-720-7839.

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Brian Douglas Sloan

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