The term joyriding is misleading. It seems to imply an action that is frivolous and fun with no significant consequences. However, joyriding refers to the practice of taking someone else's vehicle or even boat and driving it without permission. Often, joyriding involves teenagers or individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The end result can be serious property damage to the vehicle and other property, as well as injuries to the individuals engaged in joyriding or people they encounter on the road. Texas law enforcement officers and courts do not have a lenient or forgiving attitude toward anyone accused of joyriding. Even teenagers could find themselves facing felony criminal charges, potentially as an adult defendant.
Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a state jail felony in Texas
Texas has a very specific classification system for different offenses, including different forms of theft. Because joyriding is an act that intentionally deprives the owner of the vehicle from its use, it is a form of theft. Even if the individuals involved in the appropriation and use of the vehicle intended to return it, they could still face theft charges.
More often, they will face unauthorized use of a vehicle charges, which are a serious subset of Texas theft charges. As a state jail felony, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle carries significant penalties. Those who plead guilty or are convicted of a state jail felony theft charge could wind up in jail for anywhere from 180 days to two years. The courts can also order a fine of $10,000.
Finally, the individuals involved in the incident may also have to pay for any property damage or injuries that resulted from their joyride.
A teenager joyride could destroy someone's future
Parents often have little control over the mistakes their teenagers make. Teens are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and influence by their classmates. This can lead them to make decisions that their parents find shocking. In that situation, a parent may feel like the only option available is to let the teenager face the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, for unauthorized use of a vehicle, the consequences could prove permanent and life-altering. A felony conviction as a minor could keep your child from attending college or ever securing a decent career. No matter how upset you may feel about your child's decisions, you still want to help them avoid a criminal record and jail time.
Adults should also plan to defend against unauthorized use charges. Whether there was a verbal agreement with the owner of the vehicle or a mistake that led to the alleged joyride, it is possible to defend against charges related to the unauthorized use of a vehicle in Texas.