Are you facing charges under California Vehicle Code Section 10851(a)? The consequences could be severe when you are accused of driving or taking a vehicle without consent. It is important that you take action to defend yourself when you have been accused of an offense of this nature.
Reach out to an aggressive California criminal defense attorney to learn more about which defenses may be most favorable in helping you secure an acquittal.
What Is California Vehicle Code 10851(a)?
Under California Vehicle Code §10851(a), it is illegal for someone to take another person’s vehicle without that person’s consent. Driving or taking a vehicle without consent may be referred to as joyriding. Some examples of joyriding could include:
- Borrowing a friend’s car without their permission
- Hotwiring someone’s car so you can make it to your intended location
- Taking a parent’s car without their consent
If the prosecutor hopes to obtain a guilty verdict for joyriding, they will need to show that the elements of the offense have been met as follows:
- The defendant took or drove another person’s vehicle
- The defendant did not obtain the vehicle owner’s consent or permission prior to them taking or driving the owner’s vehicle
- The defendant intended to deny the vehicle’s owner of their vehicle for any amount of time
It does not matter whether you were only denying the vehicle owner their vehicle temporarily or permanently. Borrowing or stealing another person’s vehicle is grounds for a joyriding charge under California Vehicle Code §10851.
Offenses Related to CA Vehicle Code §10851
There are multiple other criminal offenses you could be charged with in relation to California Vehicle Code §10851(a). Some of the more common offenses include:
- Grand theft under California PC 487 – When the theft of property is valued at greater than $950, you can be charged with grand theft, which is a wobbler offense and means you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony based on the item’s value, your criminal record, and other factors. If convicted, you could be facing up to three years in county jail.
- Grand theft auto under California PC 487(d)(1) – Grand theft auto charges mean you have been accused of permanently taking someone else’s vehicle. This is a wobbler offense, so you could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony based on the specific circumstances of your case and, if convicted, you could be facing as much as three years in jail in addition to other criminal penalties.
- Malicious mischief to a vehicle under California VC §10853 – When you damage, deceased, or destroy a motor vehicle without the vehicle owner’s permission, you can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. If you are found guilty of malicious mischief, you could be facing up to six months in county jail and face other criminal and collateral consequences.
- Auto burglary under California PC 459 – You could be facing auto burglary charges when you are accused of entering a locked vehicle or the vehicle’s trunk with the intent to steal the vehicle, any property contained within the vehicle, or commit a crime inside of the vehicle. This is considered second-degree burglary, which is a wobbler offense and, if you are charged at the misdemeanor level, you could face up to one year in county jail or, if you are convicted at the felony level, you could spend up to three years in a California state prison.
Penalties of a Conviction Under CA Vehicle Code 10851
If you are found guilty under California Vehicle Code §10851(a), the penalties you will face can vary based on whether you were charged at the misdemeanor or felony level. If you were charged with misdemeanor joyriding, you could expect to spend as much as one year in county jail and pay fines as high as $5,000. If you were charged with felony joyriding, you could expect to spend up to three years in a California state prison and be ordered to pay fines as high as $10,000.
You could expect increased penalties if certain aggravating factors apply, such as:
- The use of a deadly weapon
- Having a prior felony conviction on your record
- Theft of a law enforcement vehicle, fire truck, ambulance, or another government vehicle during an emergency
You might also expect to have your license suspended, be ordered to participate in community service, be placed on probation, and complete a drug or alcohol treatment program. Your attorney can give you a better idea of which consequences you could be facing after carefully reviewing the circumstances of your case.
Challenging Charges Under CA Vehicle Code 10851
Defending yourself when you have been charged with taking a vehicle without consent under California Vehicle Code §10851(a) can be challenging. However, there are certain defenses that could be used to obtain a charge reduction, dismissal, or acquittal. These defenses include:
- You had the owner’s consent – The prosecutor can only obtain a conviction for joyriding if you did not have the vehicle owner’s consent to take the vehicle. However, this consent cannot be presumed for this defense to be viable.
- You believed you were the owner of the vehicle you took – If you were the rightful owner of the vehicle and are questioned, you should not be convicted of a crime under California Vehicle Code §10851(a). Your attorney will need to closely evaluate your claim of right to determine who the vehicle owner or owners are.
- You were under duress – If you were forced to take someone else’s car, you should not be found guilty of joyriding or taking a vehicle without consent under California law. Had you not been under duress, it is unlikely that you would have committed the act in question.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in California Today
If you previously thought charges under California Vehicle Code §10851(a) were minor, you may be shocked at the potential consequences you are facing.
Prepare the strongest defense possible when you contact an experienced California criminal defense lawyer for help. Schedule your confidential case evaluation by filling out our quick contact form or calling us to discuss the specific details of your case.