Taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission is always a criminal offense in the state of California. Individuals can face especially harsh penalties if they violate California Vehicle Code Section 10851(B): Unlawful Taking or Driving of an Emergency Vehicle.
Learn more about the specifics of a VC 10851(b) charge here. The legal professionals at the Simmrin Law Group can help you go over:
- The Definition of VC 10851(b)
- Penalties for a Conviction
- Possible Legal Defenses
California’s Definition for Unlawful Taking or Driving of an Emergency Vehicle
Individuals may be charged under VC 10851(b) if they steal or drive the following vehicles without permission:
- An Ambulance
- A Fire Department Vehicle
- A Distinctly Marked Law Enforcement Vehicle
- A Vehicle Modified for a Disabled Person
Individuals may also face VC 10851(b) charges if they do not directly steal the above vehicles, instead of acting as:
- An Accessory
- An Accomplice
Note that the state should only file VC 10851(b) charges if someone takes one of the above-mentioned vehicles if they had reason to know that:
- The Vehicle Was Involved in an Emergency Call
- The Vehicle Had Been Modified for Use by an Individual with a Disability
Generally, a modified vehicle must bear a specialized placard or license plate to ensure that individuals know of its specific purpose.
Results of a VC 10851(b) Conviction in California
The unlawful taking or driving of an emergency or modified vehicle can be prosecuted as a felony in the court system of California. Individuals who are convicted could face the following penalties:
- Fines: Up to $10,000
- Incarceration: Up to Four Years
Individuals may be forced to spend a minimum of 90 days in jail as part of a VC 10851(b) conviction.
Legal Defenses for VC 10851(b) Accusations
The harsh repercussions for a VC 10851(b) conviction mean that it is important that you get professional legal help on your side. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you build your case after you are charged with unlawful taking or driving of an emergency or modified vehicle. Your lawyer could work to show that:
You Didn’t Know You Were Taking a Modified Vehicle
You should only face charges for taking a modified vehicle if the vehicle was distinctly marked. If the modified vehicle did not display a placard or license plate, then you could avoid VC 10851(b) charges. However, you could still be charged with California Vehicle Code Section 10851: Unlawful Taking Or Driving Of A Vehicle.
You Didn’t Take an Emergency Vehicle on an Emergency Call
Generally, an emergency vehicle must be out on an emergency call at the time when it is taken for VC 10851(b) charges to apply. If you took an emergency vehicle when it was not in emergency use, you might not be convicted under VC 10851(b). The state could still prosecute you for unlawfully taking or driving a vehicle.
You Had Permission to Take the Emergency or Modified Vehicle
Individuals should only be charged under VC 10851(b) for taking a vehicle without the owner’s permission. If you had permission to drive the vehicle then you should not face charges for unlawful taking or driving of an emergency vehicle.
Examples of VC 10851(b) Violations in California
Man A is out with some friends when they find an ambulance sitting in front of a business. The ambulance’s lights are on, but they don’t see any paramedics. They decide to jump into the ambulance and drive away. They could be charged under VC 10851(b), since they had reason to believe the ambulance was on an emergency call.
Man B goes to visit his disabled father, who owns a vehicle modified for use by a disabled individual. While there, Man B’s father sends him to the store to pick up some groceries. Man B takes the modified vehicle. He should not be charged under VC 10851(b) because he had permission to use the vehicle.
Man C spots a large van parked at the mall. It doesn’t have any placards or license plates to mark it as a modified vehicle. He decides to take it and fully intends to sell it for parts. He would not face VC 10851(b) charges, since he could not reasonably know it was a modified vehicle. He could be charged with grand theft auto.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer Now
The state of California can hand down harsh penalties for California Vehicle Code Section 10851(B): Unlawful Taking or Driving of an Emergency Vehicle convictions. Focus on building a defense for VC 10851(b) accusations by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. You can call us at (310) 997-4688, or complete our online contact form.
Reach out to our criminal defense lawyers today for a FREE consultation.