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Prince William County Joyriding Lawyer

Joyriding is an informal term referring to when someone uses another person’s motor vehicle without permission. The Virginia legal community refers to this crime as “unauthorized use of a vehicle.” This crime occurs when someone uses a vehicle without authorization even though their intent is only to temporarily deprive the owner of possession or use of that vehicle.

Joyriding is considered a temporary theft offense since all other theft crimes in Virginia require an intent to permanently deprive an owner of their property. Joyriding resembles a theft offense in all respects except the unique temporary intent element.

If you have been charged with the unauthorized use of a vehicle, contact a Prince William County joyriding lawyer. An experienced theft attorney could advocate on your behalf throughout your case.

Joyriding Penalties

An unauthorized use offense is a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $2,500 if the vehicle in question is worth at least $500. Because most vehicles are worth $500 or more, then the authorized use charges will almost always start out as felonies. However, many judges and prosecutors are sympathetic to reducing the severity of an unauthorized use case because the threshold of $500 is unrealistically low for the standards of modern life. For this reason, a skilled Prince William County joyriding lawyer could negotiate suitable alternative outcomes for defendants

Proving Joyriding Cases

In order to prove a joyriding case, the prosecution will have to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused used a motor vehicle worth $500 or more
  • The defendant used the vehicle without the consent of the owner
  • The defendant’s intent was to only use the vehicle temporarily rather than permanently

An accomplished defense attorney could fight these accusations and when building a strong defense.

Joyriding Scenarios

Joyriding crimes frequently occur when someone has easy access to a vehicle and decides to briefly use it out of convenience or necessity without bothering to check if the owner has any objection. Whenever someone comes home and notices their car is gone, they are prone to assume it was stolen and will call the police immediately. By the time the accused rerturns the vehicle, the police are already involved and are looking to issue a charge.

Unauthorized use also happens when an individual informally borrows another’s car to go to a specific place for a specific amount of time but then violates those parameters in some way. This may cause the vehicle owner to get upset and alert the authorities.

Failure to Return a Leased or Rented Vehicle

The biggest difference between failing to return a leased vehicle and joyriding is that joyriding cases do not involve formal written lease agreements. Rental car cases often involve specific attention to certain words in the rental agreement with the car company, and there is a statutory grace period by which a person can return the vehicle even if in violation of the agreement. Joyriding cases also commonly start with someone taking possession of a vehicle without consent, whereas rental cars are always contracted out pursuant to the owner’s consent.

How a Prince William County Joyriding Attorney Could Help

If the evidence clearly establishes the client committed an unauthorized use offense, the Prince William County joyriding lawyer will primarily seek to negotiate the charge down to a misdemeanor or get the case dismissed entirely if the vehicle’s owner does not feel strongly about going forward with the prosecution. It is much more difficult for a defendant to successfully or efficiently conduct these negotiations without the defense attorney acting on their behalf. A dedicated Prince William County joyriding attorney will also look for any evidence that is in the defendant’s favor that could help build a strong case.

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