• Evan M. Howard

Charge and Defense: Missouri Auto Theft

The terms theft and stealing seem to go hand in hand in the State of Missouri. Missouri Revised Statute § 570.030 describe the laws relating to robbery, stealing, etc. Here, we’ll be discussing the charge of Auto Theft and what possible defenses may be available.

Generally, theft makes it illegal to take another property without their permission. In order for the State of secure a conviction for auto theft it must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant took another vehicle, without consent of the owner and with the intent to permanently deprive the true owner of their property.

The Elements

There are four main elements in order for the State to prove its case against the defendant:

(1) Taking of the Vehicle. You may hear the word “appropriation” of a motor vehicle. This is nothing more than legal jargon. Essentially, appropriation means to take, obtain, use, transfer, conceal or retain possession. Here, the State must prove it was the defendant whom took possession and/or control of the vehicle.

(2) Vehicle Ownership. Second, the State must prove the vehicle which was taken, did not belong to the defendant.

(3) Intent. Third, there must be an intent to deprive the rightful owner of his or her vehicle. Basically meaning the defendant took the vehicle and had no intention of returning it to the owner.

(4) No Permission. The last element is a showing the true owner of the vehicle did not give the defendant permission to take the vehicle.


If found guilty of auto theft in the State of Missouri, the penalty is a Class D Felony, punishable up to seven (7) years in prison.


In order to look for a defense of an auto theft charge, we go back through the elements and see where the State’s case is weak. Remember, the State must meet all of the elements listed above. If it fails to prove one element, it fails to prove its case.

Fighting the first element is more than likely a losing battle. If you were pulled over, you obviously had control of the vehicle. Same with the second element, if you are pulled over in the car and the car doesn’t belong to you … losing battle.

Luckily, the last two elements do have to teeth to them for the defense. The State must prove you intended to permanently deprive the owner of his or her vehicle. If, let’s say, you took a vehicle and only intended to drive it to the store and return it, would that be enough for a conviction? Based on the law, I’d say no!

The last element, no permission, can also be a way to fight your charge. Let’s say now, the owner of the vehicle told the defendant he can use his or her car “anytime.” Defendant takes the car to the store and then to a trip across town. The defendant would technically have permission to use the vehicle, and therefore the State cannot prove the last element.

Auto theft cases are all different and are all extremely fact specific. If you’ve been charge with auto theft in the State of Missouri contact Howard Law at (314) 833-3505, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for fast and effective legal representation.

About The Author

Evan M. Howard is the managing attorney for Howard Law, a St. Louis criminal defense law firm based in Clayton, Missouri. Howard Law is focused on giving honest, quick and effective representation to all of its clients. With experience dealing with tough criminal prosecution cases, Howard Law is ready to help guide you through your legal matter.

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Howard Haake is a St. Louis law firm based in Clayton, Missouri focused on business law, criminal defense, family law and estate planning. We handle all business matters from incorporation to acquisition as well as criminal defense charges from arrest to trial. Howard Haake helps clients in St. Louis, St. Charles, St. Peters, O'Fallon, Brentwood, Columbia, Eureka, Richmond Heights, Clayton, Jennings, Kirkwood, Maplewood, Manchester, Northwoods, Olivette, University City, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, Florissant, Ladue, Webster Groves, Hazelwood, Hillsboro, Washington, Union, Hermann, Pacific, and throughout St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Warren County, Gasconade County, Boone County, Crawford County, Montgomery County, and Marion County.

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