It happens all the time in the movies and on television shows. Someone needs to get somewhere in an emergency, so they jump into someone else’s vehicle and drive off. Adults under the influence of drugs or alcohol could find themselves making a truly questionable decision involving someone else’s car. Teenagers, especially those in both big cities and rural areas, may find the idea of driving around for a while without concern about the damages to the vehicle freeing and fun.
However, the risk involved with these actions is relatively severe. Anyone driving under the influence is dangerous. Even if you manage to get the vehicle back to the place you took it from, you could still cause serious property damage to the vehicle involved and other property. Worse, if you get caught, you could face very serious theft charges.
The value of the vehicle in question could impact the charges you face
You might think that law enforcement, the prosecutor or even the owner of the vehicle will take it easy on you in the wake of a joyriding incident. After all, people usually get a slap on the wrist for this kind of thing in the movies. In real life, however, the consequences could include jail time and a permanent criminal record.
Texas classifies theft charges based on the value of the item stolen. The more that the car, truck, van or SUV is worth, the more serious penalties you will likely face. If you crash the vehicle without returning it, you could face serious theft charges as the result of a joyride.
After all, it will be quite difficult to prove that you actually intended to return the vehicle if you never did. Your charges could reflect the value of that vehicle, which could mean either the current fair market value of the vehicle or the cost incurred to replace it. If the vehicle has a value of $30,000 or higher, that could mean third degree felony charges.
Even basic joyriding charges have serious penalties
If you take a vehicle to drive it around and return it, you may think you’re safe and won’t face criminal charges. However, just because you didn’t steal the vehicle doesn’t mean there won’t be criminal consequences. Joyriding itself is a crime, defined as operating a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner.
The resulting charges, called Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle charges, are also common for those accused of stealing a vehicle. This offense is a felony, and it carries between six months and two years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Clearly, this kind of criminal charge can change your life and your future if you end up convicted or pleading guilty.