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How to Get an Automobile Theft Charge Dismissed in Minnesota

If you are facing allegations of auto theft, you have found yourself in significant legal jeopardy. Like any theft charge, a conviction could result in serious consequences. Since auto theft is always considered a felony, those consequences can include years behind bars.

The good news is that our experienced theft attorneys could help you defend yourself against these charges. There are plenty of viable defenses in auto theft cases, and we could help you select the appropriate one for your case. With the right steps, you might be able to see the charges against you dismissed.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller are strong advocates for the accused. We understand what goes into a winning defense strategy, and our combined experience could be invaluable in your case. Reach out as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation.

How are Auto Theft Cases Prosecuted in Minnesota?

First and foremost, it is helpful to understand that the State of Minnesota does not recognize auto theft as a unique criminal offense. While it is informally recognized by lawyers and police alike, auto theft technically falls under the generic theft statute. The theft statute can be found at Minnesota Statute Section 609.52.

Theft crimes are a major concern for the general public, so it should come as no surprise that the police take these cases seriously. It is also worth noting that auto theft is treated differently than most other types of theft charges. Usually, the value of the item allegedly stolen determines whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony.

That is not the case when it comes to stolen automobiles. According to the statute, theft charges are always treated as felonies when motor vehicles are involved. This is the case no matter what that vehicle might be worth.

Can The Prosecutor Dismiss my Case?

The prosecutor that oversees your case ultimately has the power to bring or dismiss criminal charges. While the officers making the arrest might have some limited discretion in certain cases, the final word on bringing these charges lies with the prosecution.

Prosecutors by default are not going to dismiss theft charges—unless they have a reason to do so. Typically, the state will only agree to drop these charges when it becomes obvious that they will be unable to win at trial.

Your attorney could make the case for dismissal. While there is no guarantee that a prosecutor will listen, a strong defense strategy might be able to show them pursuing the case is futile. Few prosecutors are interested in moving forward with a trial where they are convinced they will lose.

Can the Judge Dismiss my Case in Minnesota?

The judge overseeing your auto theft case has the power to dismiss the charges against you. They might have the power, but that does not mean they will always have the inclination. In fact, you should not expect the court to even consider a possible dismissal unless our attorney files a motion to dismiss in your case.

During the course of your auto theft trial, your attorney will have the opportunity to file a motion to dismiss. Typically, this is done early on in the case. There are times when additional information only comes to life at a later date, leading to a motion to dismiss after the case has progressed somewhat.

The judge will not dismiss your case on a whim. However, they can dismiss the charges against you when the law requires it. For example, a judge could dismiss a case with prejudice if the state violated your constitutional right to a speedy trial. Before your attorney will pursue a motion to dismiss, they must carefully review the facts and identify the strongest possible strategy.

Strong Defensive Options in Minnesota

There are many different defense strategies that could be available in an auto theft case. While there might be a large number of defense options, not all of these options will be appropriate based on the facts of your case. Our criminal defense attorneys could evaluate every aspect of your case to determine the right defense strategy for you. Some of those strategies could include:


Ultimately, auto theft is the taking of another person’s vehicle without their consent. If you had the consent of the owner to use their vehicle at the time, you have not committed a crime. Many theft cases involve misunderstandings or miscommunications that lead to unwarranted arrests. An attorney could make the case that you had consent from the owner to use their vehicle and that you have done nothing wrong.


You might also have a viable defense in your case even if you mistakenly believed you had consent from the owner. Theft is a crime of intent, meaning that you are only guilty if you intended to wrongfully deprive the owner of their own vehicle. For example, if you took care you mistakenly believed to be your friend’s, you could have a defense to this charge.

Violation of your Rights

Many auto theft cases hinge on the violation of your civil rights. There are different ways the state could violate those rights. As mentioned previously, you have the right to a speedy trial. If the state takes too long to bring your case to trial, you could have grounds for dismissal.

You could also have a defense if the state unlawfully searched you or your home. Illegal searches and seizures can result in the exclusion of evidence discovered by the state. If the evidence that is excluded is crucial to the state’s case, they might dismiss the charges against you if that evidence is excluded.

Lack of Evidence

Never forget that the state has the ultimate burden of proof in every criminal case. You have no obligation to prove your innocence. Instead, the state must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of automobile theft.

This is a high burden, and it is often one the state cannot meet. In some cases, the best strategy is to highlight the weakness of the state’s case against you. This could result in an acquittal or trial or even a voluntary dismissal by the state.

Defenses That Won’t Work in Minnesota

Not every defense strategy is going to be appropriate in your case. In fact, some defenses won’t work under any circumstances. There are some common misconceptions about how to beat an auto theft charge in Minnesota, and following this advice could work against you. Our firm could not only develop the right defense strategy in your case, but we could explain why other approaches might not be appropriate.


There are some jurisdictions that see a distinction between auto theft and joyriding. Where auto theft involves the intention of permanently depriving a person of their vehicle without their consent, joyriding is not as sinister. This offense usually involves a person driving another individual’s vehicle without their consent before returning it.

Some jurisdictions treat joyriding as a separate offense, which acts as a defense in an auto theft case. That is not the case in Minnesota. The law treats joyriding like any other theft case, and the consequences can be significant.

Late Returns

Many people wrongly believe that if they have permission to take a vehicle, they are covered against any future allegations of theft. This is not the case. Consent can have limitations, especially when you are renting a vehicle for a set period of time. Under the law, you have committed auto theft the moment you are late in returning the vehicle after the agreed-upon deadline. While rental companies are not going to press charges if you are five minutes behind with returning your vehicle, keeping a vehicle longer than allowed is not in any way a defense against the charge of auto theft.

Talk to Gerald Miller About Your Auto Theft Charges

Auto theft charges are serious criminal matters that you should not attempt to handle on your own. You have the right to defense counsel, and you deserve an attorney that will fight for you.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what goes into a strong auto theft case. Before you attempt to resolve your case on your own or accept a plea bargain, contact us right away for a free consultation.

Related Content: Is Stealing a Car a Felony in Minnesota?

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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