Stephen Seaman, 27, from Redcar stole the JCB from a Miller Homes site last November.
He drove it through site hoardings before being spotted by a passing police car which “chased” the slow moving machine.
The plant thief then reversed on to the the bonnet of the police car and damaged it when he could not get through a hedgerow.
He admitted five offences including theft of a vehicle, causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life, and dangerous driving.
Seaman was also banned from driving for two years.