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Massachusetts’ auto-theft law is found in M.G.L. c. 266, § 28.

Auto Theft

According to the statute, a person can be charged with auto theft if he

  • steals a vehicle;
  • maliciously damages a vehicle;
  • takes a vehicle without the owner’s permission and steals parts from the vehicle;
  • obtains a vehicle knowing it was stolen;
  • obtains a vehicle with reason to know it was stolen; intentional removal of a VIN number is prima facie evidence for knowing a vehicle is stolen.


A person convicted of auto theft could receive any of the following penalties:

  • Up to 15 years in prison, or
  • Up to 2.5 years in jail, or
  • Fined up to $1,500, or
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

Mandatory Sentencing

A person charged and convicted with his second auto theft shall receive a minimum punishment of one year in jail without parole.

It’s also notable that auto-theft charges, whether a first-time or repeated offense, “shall not be placed on file or continued without a finding” by the prosecution. This drastically reduces a defendant’s ability to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV)

Upon conviction or adjudication (i.e., the legal process of deciding the case), the court will notify the RMV. The RMV will automatically revoke the defendant’s license or, if he does not have a license, his rights operate a motor vehicle.

The defendant’s license and/or rights to drive will be reinstated,

  • If he is acquitted;
  • If he is conviction of his first offense, his license will be reinstated after one year;
  • IF he is conviction of his second offense or more, his license will be reinstated after five years.

Aiding an Auto Thief

Lastly, the same statute allows for up ten years imprisonment for anyone who “conceals any motor vehicle or trailer thief knowing him to be such.”