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Reporting A Stolen Vehicle

Stolen Car ImageOften vehicles thought to be stolen are, in fact, towed due to parking violations or repossessed due to lack of payment.

Before reporting your vehicle stolen, call the San Jose Police Department Auto Desk at (408) 277-4263 and determine if your vehicle was impounded.

If your vehicle was not impounded and is to the best of your knowledge stolen, you can call 311 and have an officer respond to your house or go to the San Jose Police Department and make your report in person.  Cellular callers may need to dial (408) 277-8900.

When making the report have the following items in your possession:

  • The license plate number of the vehicle
  • Vehicle Identification Number “VIN”
  • Proof of ownership (pink slip or registration)
  • Your identification (California License or other valid ID)

Requirements for Reporting a Stolen Vehicle

  •  The registered owner or an agent of the legal owner of the vehicle may report the vehicle as stolen.

Don’t know the license plate or VIN number?

Your insurance company can provide you with your vehicle’s VIN. Try looking on your latest insurance statement or the vehicle title.



Auto Theft Reporting Guidelines

Many hours are expended investigating unfounded auto theft cases in which a report should not have been taken. The following are some established guidelines, which will assist in your decision to make a stolen vehicle report, or not.


There are three categories of consensual use:

1) DOMESTIC LOAN: The victim loans his /her vehicle to a friend or acquaintance. The victim may or may not be specific as to when the vehicle is to be returned. In this and similar cases, every effort to recover your own vehicle must be made. The victim must also send a demand letter via certified mail. Three (3) days from the date of the certified mail receipt, a stolen vehicle report can be made.

2a) TEST DRIVE: Private Party Seller In the “private sale” situation, a report should be taken after the person taking the vehicle fails to return it within a reasonable time frame. Three to four hours, would be a reasonable length of time for the test driver to make mechanical checks and detect potential car trouble.

2b) TEST DRIVE: Dealership Sale The same principle applies to auto dealerships. However, the dealership representative authorizing the test drive will be required to make the auto theft report after the three to four hour time frame has elapsed. In either of these cases or other situations, if the vehicle was taken by force, fraud or deception, no waiting period is required and an officer will be dispatched to take a report as soon as possible.

3) RENTAL or LEASED VEHICLES: These cases fall under section 10855* of the California Vehicle Code, which states in part... “any person who has leased or rented a vehicle willfully and intentionally fails to return the vehicle to its owner within 3 days after the lease or rental agreement has expired, that person shall be presumed to have embezzled the vehicle.” If the person renting or leasing the vehicle uses a false name or any form of fraud, the 3 day waiting period is unnecessary and a report should be made as soon as possible.

**The owner of an embezzled vehicle shall attempt to contact the other party to the lease or rental agreement who has failed to return the vehicle using the contact method designated in the rental agreement for this purpose. If the owner is able to contact the party, the owner shall inform the party that if arrangements for the return of the vehicle that are satisfactory for the owner are not made, the owner may report the vehicle stolen to law enforcement. If the owner is not able to contact the other party after a reasonable number of attempts, or, if upon contacting the other party, the owner is not able to arrange for the satisfactory return of the vehicle, the owner may report the vehicle stolen.

**The lease or rental agreement shall disclose that failure to return the vehicle within 72 hours of the expiration of the lease or rental agreement may result in the owner reporting the vehicle as stolen and shall require the lessee to provide a method to contact the lessee if the vehicle is not returned.

In all cases that involve rental or leased vehicles, the following information should be obtained and submitted to the officer taking the report:

  • A copy of the rental agreement and any documented conversations / demands made between the rental company and the renter.
  • The name of the employee who rented the vehicle and a statement describing the circumstances of the transaction (any unusual requests and / or vehicle demands).
  • A detailed description of the suspect and whether the employee renting the vehicle can identify the suspect.
  • In all cases involving a rental agency, the company must provide a name, contact information, and availability for court should the suspect be arrested and a victim is necessary. The DA needs a contact person who is willing to stand in as a representative of the rental agency.


1) DIVORCE SITUATIONS: Often during divorce situations, a husband or wife, after an argument and one of the parties leaves the house, will report their vehicle stolen. If the reporting parties indicate it was a spouse, the officer should explain under California community property laws no violation of the law has been committed. No report will be taken.

However, if there is a final divorce decree and the reporting party was granted the vehicle in question, a report will be taken.

In instances where the reporting party claims that the divorce is not final but the property has already been divided by the court and they were given title to the vehicle, the reporting party should be directed to contact their attorney for enforcement of the court order. No report will be taken.

Other Cases

1) Joy Riding (499b P.C.) no longer exists. The report will be taken as an auto theft if the elements of the crime are present.

OUR MISSION: Create safe places to live, work, and learn through community partnerships. The Department maintains
a commitment to the following values: Integrity, Courage, Excellence, Service, Diversity, Innovation, and Respect.