When Kids “Borrow” A Car For The Night—It Could Be A Crime!

Joyriding; it sounds like fun, but it is technically a felony. It’s breaking into a locked car and driving around just for the pure thrill of it. It seems innocent enough, especially when it is your teen or young adult child taking mom or dad’s car for a ride.
Many of us might have a story of taking a quick, unauthorized spin in the family car and probably have a friend or two who did the same thing in high school and never got caught. An afternoon joyride is what some classic movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are made of.
Unfortunately, in real-life, so-called joyrides don’t always end in a parade and song. There is a real risk that you’ll attract the attention of the police.
People make bad judgments that lead to accidents, injuries and property damage. A split-second, irresponsible decision can lead to a criminal record and long-lasting repercussions.
If you or your child is charged with a crime, you could face charges for driving a vehicle without authorization or consent of the owner. Even if it is one of your own children who takes your car without permission, the consequences could be serious. The law might not be as forgiving as the average parent.

Joyriding Is Felony Auto Theft “Light”

Both adults and young adults can be charged under the same statute governing “Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle.” It is a felony-level crime and punishable by six months to two years in jail. A conviction can carry a fine of up to $10,000.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

Because the crime of “Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle” is a lesser crime than other auto-theft crimes, it is easier to prove but still carries stiff penalties and long-term consequences. The prosecutor needs to show that the person taking the vehicle knew that he or she did not have consent to take it. Even if you intended to return the vehicle to the exact spot from which you took it, that intent is irrelevant.

What Defenses Do You Have?

If you’re charged with “Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle,” you have two potential defenses:

You did have the owner’s consent and can prove it.
You did not intend to deprive the rightful owner of the use of the vehicle.

What Other Consequences Can You Face?

A criminal case puts other stresses on a person’s life besides possible fines and jail time. A theft conviction could impact your current employment or future employment opportunities. Another troubling reality for younger men and women convicted of a theft offense is how colleges might overlook them because of the incident.
Juveniles with felony convictions also face possible jail time, community service obligations and adult/guardian supervision while driving. Depending on the specific case, they might also be stuck with a record that could impact future opportunities such as school and work. Kids and adults who get caught taking a car, just for the thrill of driving around in it for a few hours, can face some lifelong consequences.

If You or Your Child Is Facing Charges, Contact Us Immediately

As soon as possible, reach out to one of our Texas criminal defense attorneys for advice. We will vigorously defend you or your young-adult child to get the charges dismissed or help ensure that the consequences of such charges have minimal impact on your or your kid’s future.