The Wanted Level in Grand Theft Auto V is a measure to determine how much the player is wanted by the Los Santos Police Department, the Los Santos County Sheriff and/or the National Office of Security Enforcement. Unlike previous games in the series, Grand Theft Auto V features a five-star scale rather than six.
In contrast with police in previous installments, police officers in Grand Theft Auto V are much more aggressive and persistent when it comes to chasing after criminals or the player. The police AI is noticeably much more intelligent; police cars avoid obstacles much better and tend to use more methods of apprehending the player, such as the PIT maneuver, or attempting to corner and "box in" the player's vehicle. When chasing after the player in a vehicle, police officers tend to ram the back end of the player's car, which may send it skidding out of control. Police may also commandeer civilian vehicles to continue a pursuit if their own is destroyed. Similar to Grand Theft Auto IV, police can even respond to crimes committed out of their sight, as civilians can call the police on their cell phones to report crimes. While having a Wanted Level, players are not able to switch between the three protagonists, though they can switch to their Online character.
At a one-star wanted level, the player is considered to have committed a "minor" crime. The police will chase the player and attempt to arrest him by holding him 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. If the player climbs a ladder, the police will climb up too. 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. Just like in former games, officers are able to pull the protagonist out of a stationary or slow-moving vehicle and place them under arrest.
A one-star wanted level differs in Grand Theft Auto Online in that the police will never attempt to arrest the protagonist; instead they will simply shoot to kill. This is due to a lack of the Busted mechanic in Grand Theft Auto Online, much like the previous multiplayer mode in Grand Theft Auto IV.
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.
- 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.
- Rarely, if the LSPD or Highway Patrol see you speeding in a vehicle, this is seen in some missions/stranger and freaks.
- Being Caught stealing money from the cashier in 24/7
At a two-star wanted level, police become more aggressive and will shoot to kill. During pursuits, officers actively chase the player and drive much more aggressively, now attempting to ram the player off the road. Pursuits are also far more coordinated, with police cars waiting ahead of the pursuit at the side of the road to "ambush" the player, or blending into civilian traffic with their lights and sirens deactivated until the player draws near. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops their vehicle (although, again, this will not occur in Grand Theft Auto Online). At this wanted level, a maximum of 3 police cars will be chasing the player.
A two-star wanted level can be acquired 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.
- Running over a Police officer (sometimes three stars).
- 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, either on Route 68 or on the Palomino Freeway.
- 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 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.
- Being caught attacking a paramedic or firefighter in sight.
- Trespassing, or driving into, Richards Majestic Productions studio, if playing as Franklin or Trevor.
- Being on top of the cable cars at Mount Chiliad
At three stars the police widen their range of tactics to stop the player. They will set up roadblocks with their police cars and police transporters, which may also set out a spike strip on the road behind them. All police officers will be wearing a bullet proof vests. Police officers will run up to the player if they are stationary in a vehicle, drag them out and waste them with their current weapon. A Police Maverick helicopter will be called in to shadow the player and provide air support in the form of armed officers riding on board and firing from the open side doors. At night, the helicopter will also shine its powerful spotlight on the player to highlight their location to other ground units. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops their vehicle, however they will shoot mindlessly and will probably kill the player instead. A maximum of four police cars and a police helicopter will be sent after the player at any given time, but when passing a roadblock, officers may get in their vehicles in order to join the chase. The Police helicopter will only stay on station until its fuel runs low, at which point it will return to base, but it will be replaced by another in short order.
A three-star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Killing, injuring or running over a law enforcement officer or a soldier.
- Trespassing in the Los Santos International Airport only as Trevor(Patch 1.11 only; otherwise, the player will also earn a wanted if playing as Michael or Franklin if either character has yet to own a hanger).
- Shooting the cashier during or after robbing a store. (GTA Online)
- Shooting down any aircraft in flight (including NPC-controlled Froggers, Jets, Shamals and Buzzards).
- Trespassing the staircase or the rooftop of the LSPD Police station in Mission Row.
- Colliding into an aircraft and destroying it.
- Attacking or destroying 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)
- Completing the fourth Rampage.
- Killing a lot more civilians while already in two stars.
- Destroying the Blimp.
- Standing behind or using the police computer in the police counter on Mission Row.
- Vigilantism: Shooting a criminal during a police shooting.
At a four-star wanted level, NOOSE teams will be sent to eliminate the player. They will arrive in FIB Grangers or Sheriff SUVs, depending on whether they are in Los Santos or Blaine County. Each vehicle contains three NOOSE officers — one driving and two others hanging on the sides, firing their weapons on the player. NOOSE will also try to gun the player down from Police Mavericks overhead, up to three of which may now become involved, although typically only two will be deployed at any one time. When the officers aboard helicopters cannot get a shot at their target, they may rappel out of the helicopter and engage the player on the ground. Armored NOOSE riot vans will also be deployed to set up roadblocks. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops their vehicle. At this wanted level, a maximum of five police ground vehicles and three police helicopters will be sent after the player at any given time, though officers in roadblocks may also get in their cars and chase the player.
A four-star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Destroying a Police Maverick while a wanted level is in full force. Can sometimes take at least 2 tries to attain the fourth star.
- Trespassing in restricted areas (such as the Zancudo Army Base or the Humane Labs and Research facility).
- Robbing four stores and killing the owner in a row.
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 and streets in the city will eventually feature next to or no traffic what so ever, with numerous police cars and NOOSE vehicles hunting for the player and police setting up multiple roadblocks at a time. At five stars, up to three Police Mavericks will be chasing the player, although usually only two will be deployed at any one time. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops their vehicle. A significantly higher proportion of NOOSE units will be involved compared to four stars. Unlike police from Grand Theft Auto IV, normal police officers will not perform drive-by's during a chase; only NOOSE officers will attempt to shoot the player while driving, firing from their Grangers.
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.
- Firing a missile in a Buzzard or P-996 Lazer within Los Santos International Airport (if playing as Trevor).
- Robbing all of the 24/7 stores when you survived the police (GTA Online)
There are several restricted areas in GTA V that are off-limits to the protagonists and will automatically grant the player a wanted level should they trespass within. While inside any of these areas, the Lower Wanted Level cheat will not function, and the player will be unable to lose their heat unless they leave the area. Restricted areas include:
- Fort Zancudo - Entering the base will give the player a four-star wanted level. Flying over it will give only two stars, although this will quickly escalate to four if the player does not move away quickly.
- Bolingbroke Penitentiary - Entering the prison will give the player a four-star wanted level. Flying over it will give only two stars, although this will quickly escalate to four if the player does not move away quickly.
- Humane Labs and Research - Entering the laboratory will give the player a four-star wanted level. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Los Santos Golf Club - In singleplayer, flying over the club or driving a vehicle on the golf course itself will give the player a two-star wanted level, unless the player owns the club. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Los Santos Naval Port - Entering the secure military area at the port will give the player a four-star wanted level. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Los Santos International Airport - Driving onto the airport tarmac will give the player a three-star wanted level. However, if Michael and/or Franklin purchase an aircraft hangar, they will be able to access the airport without a wanted level. As Trevor cannot purchase a hangar at Los Santos International, he will always gain a wanted level. The airport is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Kortz Center - Entering the Center whilst it is closed will earn the player a one-star wanted level.
- Backlot City - Entering the studio will give the player a two-star wanted level. However, after the mission Mr. Richards, all three characters can enter the area without restriction. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Mission Row Police Station - Trespassing the staircase or the rooftop will give the player a three-star wanted level. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online, but can only be accessed via the back door in the parking lot while in Freemode.
While the military will never be called in to pursue the player, military personnel may become involved in the chase if it occurs near Fort Zancudo. Typically this will involve only soldiers in Crusaders, who will give chase to the player and attempt to arrest them GTA V, although they will shoot the player if they resist arrest. On the base itself, military personnel will shoot to kill. Any patrolling Rhino tanks will also become involved, using their cannons to try and kill the player.
In the mission Franklin and Lamar, when the player gets a wanted level for the first time, the following instructions 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.
Escaping a Wanted Level
To escape a wanted level, the player must stay out of sight of the police pursuers (in the "cone search mode") for a period of time (the length of time depends on the severity of the wanted level).
If a police pursuer spots the player and the chase reverts to active mode, the escape timer will reset.
In Singleplayer and Online, the player can reduce their wanted level by one star by changing their appearance - this can be done by putting on or taking off a mask or sunglasses while the search is in "search cone" mode. This will mean they have less time to wait out the search. Failure to escape will result in the player either being arrested or (in Online especially) killed. If the player is within a block radius of their Personal Vehicle, their vehicle will be impounded.
- Unlike previous games in the series, saving the game will not clear the wanted level, and when loading the game it will reappear, particularly a quick save.
- If the player is in a vehicle and being chased by the police, civilians will occasionally help the police by either attempting to ram the player's vehicle off the road, or by blocking the player's path.
- Similarly, if one disables a police vehicle but do not kill the police officers, the officers may commandeer a civilian car to continue the pursuit.
- The cone shapes on the radar during a wanted level are comparable to the police search mechanic first seen in the Driver series. It is also similar to the Wanted Level system in Bully, another Rockstar game.
- If the radio in the player's vehicle is switched off, background music will begin to play once a three-star wanted level is reached, and will continue to do so until the wanted level is lost. There are 9 original different pieces of music that will randomly play (13 extras have been added to the enhanced version). The background theme will get more intense when the player is at four stars and very intense at five stars. The music will become passive when in hiding.
- It is possible to lose the cops by hiding in bushes, around trees and entering the tram (if in a bush, be wary that helicopters will still shoot at the player even if they are out of sight of the police).
- Should the player gain a wanted level during a mission, they will be prompted to lose it and the mission will be suspended until the wanted level is lost.
- NOOSE teams and Security Guards do not attempt to arrest the player, but security guards will shoot at them even if they have a one-star wanted level. Unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, NOOSE teams could arrest the player.
- In Grand Theft Auto Online, the player can hide in their apartment or garage to lose their wanted level; however, similar to the Los Santos Customs, the player can only enter if they are out of sight of the police. Police will occasionally spawn near the player's apartment if they have a high wanted level.
- If Michael enters his house or Trevor enters his strip club with a two or more star wanted level, anyone inside (Michael's family and the strip club staff) will evacuate the building.
- If the player is hanging out with one of the main protagonists and they have a wanted level, the other two protagonists will fire upon the police to get them away from whomever the player is controlling. Other friends (expect for Amanda) will stick their middle finger at the police and insult them.
- The LSSD (Los Santos Country Sheriff) will have no differences with the LSPD in driving and gunfight tactics (despite Lester claiming that the LSPD officers receive better training in Paleto Score Setup).
- The San Andreas Highway Patrol will pursue the player using Police Bikes and shoot players with their pistol even if having only one star. Notice that they do not appear normally during pursuits, and only chase the player if roaming near a spawn point (such as near a highway).
- If the player is on the road with a wanted level, police vehicles will sometimes spawn ahead on the road either slowly driving or remaining stationary, with their sirens off. This replicates a normal patrolling vehicle that is not aware of the player's approach but has the side-effect of causing players to confuse the police vehicles with other civilian vehicles in the traffic.
- It is possible for the player to escape the police in locations that would appear to be easily accessible to the pursuers. For example, the police will very rarely chase a player into the subway construction tunnel leading off the Del Perro Freeway under the Alta Street overpass.
- In Grand Theft Auto Online, there are several places where the search cone mode seems to ignore the vertical axis and police above ground can "see" players hiding in underground tunnels with no direct line of sight to the player.
- Should the player be in a stationary vehicle whilst out of sight of the police, the protagonist inside can be seen looking around anxiously until the police spot the player or give up.
- In the enhanced version, the police will drive-by shoot at the player if they fire at the police while in a vehicle.
- In Grand Theft Auto Online, if the player looks at another player who has a wanted level, a star can be seen next to the wanted player's name, containing a number (from 1 to 5) reflecting the severity of the wanted level they have.