The Wanted Level in Grand Theft Auto V is a measure of how much the player is wanted by the Los Santos Police Department and other Law Enforcement agencies. Unlike previous games, GTA V only has five wanted star rankings, ranking police lethality from the non-lethal one star to the extremely aggressive five stars. Note that the increased police aggression as well as better AI and deadlier weapons do compensate for the missing sixth star. Unlike in GTA IV, where it was comparatively easier to evade the police, the cops in GTA V are more brutal, smarter and search far more effectively for the player if eluded.
At a one star-wanted level, the police will chase the player and attempt to arrest them by holding them at gunpoint. In a vehicle, the officer will open the door and hold the protagonist at gunpoint, making him surrender immediately. If on foot, the player can resist arrest by pressing the sprint button to break away from the arrest and attempt to run away, at the cost of immediately raising the wanted level to two stars. Police cars will follow the player. If the player resists arrest, either by breaking away from being busted or by simply running/driving away, the wanted level will escalate to two stars. There will be a maximum of two police cars chasing the player at this wanted level, unless more cops are in the area when attaining a star. If the player enters the water the police will shoot the player. In GTA Online, however, it is shoot to kill from the first star due to the lack of the Busted-mechanic.
A one star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following deeds:
- Causing damage at the local stands, shops, knocking over pedestrians without killing them and causing a non-lethal chaos on streets.
- Shooting, killing, injuring, running over, or otherwise attacking pedestrians.
- Bumping into a police car.
- Stealing a vehicle, either by carjacking the occupants inside or breaking into a parked one.
- Killing the driver of a vehicle the player is stealing.
- Driving by an officer with the car's alarm sounding.
- Attacking a vehicle. (Explosions may result in two or three star wanted level)
- Harassing police, either by honking at them, flipping them off (especially when trying to perform a Drive-By Shooting without a gun), walking into them, standing on top of an occupied police vehicle, doing burnouts near them, talking to them repeatedly using the interaction button (which causes the character to start insulting them), or even standing next to them for too long.
- Harassing, injuring or killing a security guard (or even his dog).
- Acquired if a pedestrian calls the police on the player for harassing.
- Taking a picture of a police officer/sheriff deputy with the in-game phone's Snapmatic feature.
- Blocking the police car's path for too long.
- Spotted in a stolen vehicle. (GTA Online)
- Harassing pedestrians while in sight of police.
- Crashing an aircraft, typically by parachuting out of it while in mid-air.
- Shooting a gun while scaring pedestrians. (unusually gives a Wanted Level)
- Being spotted by police while driving a vehicle that has caught fire.
- Attacking a paramedic
- Attacking a firefighter
- Not paying the Downtown Cab driver fairly
- Attacking another player while in sight of the police. (GTA Online)
- If another player calls the police on you. (GTA Online)
- Being caught Drunk Driving.
- Being caught shoplifting items at convenience stores.
At a two star-wanted level, the police become more aggressive. They now shoot to kill and during pursuits, officers actively chase the player and drive much more aggressively, now attempting to ram the player. In a pursuit, police cars may also be waiting ahead of the pursuit at the side of the road and police vehicles might also be driving ahead of the player, turning its lights and sirens on when the player gets close to surprise him/her and cut him/her off. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). At this wanted level, a maximum of 3 police cars will be chasing the player.
A two star wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Attacking a law enforcement officer with fists, or melee weapons.
- Resisting arrest, either by breaking away from the arrest itself, or attempting to run/drive away.
- Refusing to pull over while driving a vehicle, after police orders you to do it.
- Killing a paramedic with a firearm.
- Killing a firefighter with a firearm.
- Landing on a cable car with a parachute.
- Shooting a gun in sight of police.
- Pointing a gun at someone in sight of police.
- Stealing a police vehicle near any police station or anywhere else in the game while in sight of police.
- Attacking, or bumping into a vehicle occupied by a law enforcement officer.
- Killing pedestrians while already at a one star wanted level.
- Sometimes when switching to Trevor, the player will find themselves in a police pursuit with a two-star wanted level.
- Acquired after refusing to leave the Los Santos Golf Club after the warning has been given.
- Flying over the airspace of Bolingbroke Penitentiary, Fort Zancudo or Los Santos International Airport after the warning is given to leave.
- Killing, injuring or attacking a civilian inside the Mission Row Police Station.
- Holding up a store. (Whilst the act of robbing a store gives only a one star wanted level, this will increase to two as soon as the player leaves the store. However, due to the lack of the Busted-mechanic in GTA Online, this will simply result in a two star-wanted level in the store.)
- Stealing any vehicle that was requested by Simeon. (GTA Online)
- Trespassing into Bolingbroke Penitentiary.
- Trespassing in a police impound lot to retrieve the player's Personal Vehicle. (GTA Online)
- Crashing a vehicle the player is driving at high speed while in sight of police.
- Killing Steve Haines in The Third Way.
At three stars the police will use a lot more tactics to stop the player. They will set up roadblocks with their police cars and police transporter vans which will set out a spike strip on the road behind it. All police officers will be wearing a bullet proof vest. Police officers will run up to you if you are stationary in a vehicle, drag you out and waste you with their current weapon. A police helicopter is called in to follow the player around, shining its spotlight on them at night and letting its gunners fire at the player and Giving the cops the players location. On the water, police predator boats will be sent in to chase the player. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot), however they will shoot mindlessly and will probably drag you from your car and kill you. A maximum of 4 police cars and a police helicopter will be sent after the player at any given time, but when passing a roadblock, officers will get in their vehicles in order to give chase to the player.
A three star-wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Killing, injuring or running over a law enforcement officer.
- Attacking, or bumping into a vehicle occupied by a law enforcement officer.
- Driving into or landing in Los Santos International Airport. (when the player does not own a hangar as Michael and Franklin or as Trevor as the latter cannot purchase a hangar.)
- Shooting the cashier during or after robbing a store. (GTA Online)
- Shooting down the Atomic Blimp or other aircrafts in flight.
- Going up to the second floor or above of the LSPD police station in Mission Row.
- Colliding into aircraft and destroying it.
- Blowing up the back of the doors from the Securicar truck. (GTA Online)
- Robbing several stores within a certain amount of time without changing glasses or masks. (GTA Online)
- Failure to return the vehicle within 12 hours, or destroying a requested vehicle from Lester. (GTA Online)
- Upon completing the fourth Rampage.
- Killing a lot more civilians while already in two stars.
At a four star wanted level, NOOSE teams will be sent in to eliminate the player. They will arrive in FIB Granger or Sheriff SUVs, depending on whether they are in Los Santos or the countryside. There will be one NOOSE unit driving the SUV, with two other NOOSE units hanging on the sides, firing their handguns on the player. NOOSE will also try to gun the player down out of Police Mavericks. When they can't get a shot, they will rappel out of the police helicopter with ropes and engage the player on the ground. Armored NOOSE riot vans will also be deployed to set up roadblocks. There will be multiple helicopters chasing the player at a time, most of the time 2, though the number can go up to 3 when the player attacks them and even rarely, 4. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). At this wanted level, a maximum of 5 police ground vehicles and 4 police helicopters will be sent after the player at any given time, though officers in roadblocks will get in their cars and chase the player after he has passed them or changed his route. During The Paleto Score, military officers and Rhino tanks will also give chase.
A four star-wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Destroying a Police Maverick while a wanted level is in full force. (has not been tested on wanted levels below three stars).
- Trespassing in the Zancudo Army Base or the Humane Labs and Research facility.
A continued pursuit with four stars will eventually give the player a five-star wanted level. This is the highest wanted level in the game. The streets will now be filled with police personnel, with numerous police cars and NOOSE vehicles looking for the player and the police setting up multiple roadblocks at a time. At 5 stars multiple Police Mavericks will be chasing the player. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). Also noticeable is the significant higher amount of NOOSE units compared to 4 stars. During The Paleto Score, military officers and Rhino tanks will also give chase, and the Rhinos will also fire at you.
A five star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Killing a large number of police personnel.
- Destroying a large number of cars, boats, bikes, helicopters, or other vehicles.
Around Fort Zancudo, if the player is driving near the gate, soldiers in Crusaders come to chase the player, as if the soldiers were LSPD/Sheriff. It is unknown why they do this due to the Posse Comitatus Act, but it could be because the player is near the Military Base and due to the fact that the player has four to five stars, he's considered a threat to national security and they are responding in an orderly fashion to eliminate the player. At this point, little to no Rhinos or Barracks will chase the player outside the base.
In the mission Franklin and Lamar, when the player gets a wanted level for the first time, the next instruction will appear:
- Your wanted level is shown by the number of stars on screen. One or more stars and the cops will be alerted.
- The Radar flashes red and blue when the cops can see you.
- When out of sight of the cops, the wanted stars will flash and cones will appear on the Radar to show the area they are searching.
- To lose a wanted level, stay out of the cones until the cops call off the search. Hide in alleys or in the dark to stay out their sight.
- When the player is near Fort Zancudo and has a wanted level, military troops and vehicles will leave the base and attempt to kill the player. Some of these vehicles include the Canis Crusader and the Rhino Tank.
- GTA V is the only game in the series other than the original Grand Theft Auto not to have six-star wanted level.
- If you are in a vehicle and being chased by the police, civilians will occasionally help the cops by trying to ram you off the road, or blocking your path.
- Similarly, if you disable a police vehicle but do not kill the officers within, the officers may commandeer a civilian car to continue the pursuit.
- Besides hiding and using the lose wanted level cheat, the player can activate the skyfall cheat and fly around San Andreas to lose the cops. Also if the player hides deep inside the ocean, the cops will lose sight of you.
- The cone shapes on the radar during a wanted level are comparable to the police search mechanic first seen in the Driver series.
- If the player is not listening to any in-car radio, background music will begin to play once a 3-star wanted level is reached, and will continue to do so until the wanted level is lost. There are 12 different pieces of music that will randomly play.
- The player cannot switch characters if they are wanted.
- It is possible to lose the cops by hiding in bushes, around trees and entering the tram.
- The lower wanted level cheat does not work if the player is trespassing in areas that automatically grant a wanted level upon entry. These include Fort Zancudo, Bolingbroke Penitentiary, and the tarmac of the Los Santos International Airport (as Trevor, or as Michael/Franklin if the player has not yet purchased a hangar), as well as Humane Labs and Research.
- The game will prompt the player to lose their wanted level if it gets earned during a mission.
- NOOSE teams and Security Guards will not attempt to arrest the player (Security Guards will fire upon the player even though they have only a one star wanted level).
- In GTA Online, you can hide in your apartment to lose your wanted level; however, similar to the Los Santos Customs, you can't do this when in view of the police. Also, during higher wanted levels, police will occasionally spawn near your apartment.
- The police are far more aggressive and intelligent in GTA Online, going as far as to notice the player despite not having a visual on him
- If Michael is near his safehouse, his family members will quickly evacuate when he has two or more wanted stars.
- When the player has a one star wanted level, the police will only shoot the player if the player enters the water.
- If you're hanging out with Micheal, Franklin or Trevor and you have a wanted level, all 3 protagonists will fire upon the police to get them away from whoever you're playing as, everyone else (Amanda, Lamar, Jimmy) will stick their middle finger to the cops.
- If you see the police chasing a criminal that means the criminal has a wanted level. If the helicopters are also chasing the criminal that means the AI has 3 or more star wanted level.