It is against the law to take another person’s motor vehicle without their permission in Los Angeles. The courts consider taking a motor vehicle to be a criminal act even if you intend to return the vehicle at a later date. Individuals who take a vehicle without getting the owner’s consent can be charged under California Vehicle Code Section 10851: Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle.
You may also hear VC 10851 referred to as ‘joyriding.’ Joyriding – or unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle – is a serious criminal charge that can lead to incarceration and fines. Learn more about the facts surrounding this charge from the professionals at the Simmrin Law Group.
The Definition of VC 10851
Drivers can be charged with unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle if they:
- Take Another Person’s Vehicle
- Without the Owner’s Consent
- While Intending to Keep Possession Away from the Owner
VC 10851 is very similar to California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1): Grand Theft Auto. Both charges are used to prosecute individuals who take another person’s vehicle. The difference between these charges generally comes down to intent.
Courts can charge drivers with joyriding if they intend to return the vehicle eventually. Grand theft auto charges are reserved for individuals who plan to keep a stolen vehicle.
Examples of Joyriding in Los Angeles
A driver decides to borrow his roommate’s expensive car to go on a date. He does not ask for permission, and he knows that his roommate needs the car to get to work. He could be charged with unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle.
Another driver finds an unattended firetruck and can’t resist the urge to climb inside. She decides to take the vehicle on a spin around the block and then returns it. She could face felony charges under PC 10851.
Legal Repercussions for Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle
The court system in Los Angeles can charge unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the charge. Generally, first-time offenders will face misdemeanor charges. Felony charges might be used if the accused:
- Previously Stole Cars
- Has a Record of Violent Crimes
Additionally, VC 10851 can be charged as a felony if the following vehicles are stolen:
- Firefighting Vehicles
- Marked Law Enforcement Vehicles
- Operating Ambulances
- Vehicles Used to Move Individuals with Disabilities
A conviction for VC 10851 can have a number of severe consequences, including:
Misdemeanor Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle
- Up to $5,000 in Fines
- Up to 1 Year of Jail Time
Felony Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle
- Up to $10,000 in Fines
- Up to 4 Years of Prison Time
VC 10851 and Criminal Defenses
Drivers accused of violating VC 10851 do have legal options at their disposal. Some common defenses for accusations of unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle include:
You Had Permission to Take the Vehicle
Drivers should not be convicted of joyriding if they got the permission of the vehicle’s owner before driving. Note that a driver must have permission every time they drive another person’s vehicle. A previous instance of consent does not give a driver permission to take a vehicle whenever they want.
You Have a Legal Right to Drive the Vehicle
Some vehicles belong to more than one person. If a driver shares legal ownership of a vehicle, they should not face charges under VC 10851.
You Needed the Vehicle for an Emergency Situation
Drivers may be able to utilize a ‘necessity defense’ if they had to use someone else’s vehicle because an emergency was occurring. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can determine if any of these defenses are applicable in your situation.
Getting Professional Help to Handle VC 10851 Charges
All forms of vehicular theft are treated very seriously in Los Angeles. Drivers may be charged with California Vehicle Code Section 10851: Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle even if they intend to return a vehicle. Call (310) 997- 4688 or fill out our online contact form to get professional advice from the Simmrin Law Group.
You can contact us for a FREE consultation about your legal situation.