What Is Joyriding?
“Joyriding” is a colloquial term for taking a car without permission. In Texas, the law doesn’t use the term. Instead, it is officially a crime to use a vehicle without authorization from its owner. Joyriding is not the same as grand theft auto. The key difference is the intent to return the car. A thief plans to keep the car for themselves, and a joyrider plans to eventually give the car back.
Penalties for Joyriding
Joyriding may seem like a minor crime, but Texas takes it very seriously. It is a felony crime, and the penalties are steep. If convicted, an alleged joyrider can spend up to two years in prison, with fines of up to $10,000.
Defenses Against a Joyriding Charge
With penalties so severe, you certainly want to challenge these charges in court. Always remember that no matter what the charge, you have a constitutional right to a defense. It is also important to recognize that you are innocent until proven guilty. In the eyes of the law, you have done nothing wrong. The prosecution has a responsibility to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of the crime for which you are accused.
Here are some defenses you and your lawyer can use against a joyriding accusation.
There Was a Misunderstanding
If you have a relationship with the car’s owner, you may be able to show the court that there was a simple misunderstanding. Perhaps you had permission to use the car before, and you assumed that the agreement was still valid. Remember that a key element to any criminal charge is intent. Even if someone clearly committed an act, they may have been unaware that they were doing something illegal. If you sincerely believed you had permission to use the car, you can explain your case to the court.
Maybe the authorities misread the situation. You may have had permission to use the car, and the police did not have all the facts.
The Incident Was Insignificant
Depending on the facts of the case, you may be able to explain to the court that the joyride was harmless. If someone allegedly took a car for one quick spin around the block, they could potentially earn mercy from the court. Perhaps there is no denying that the event took place, but it is not worth putting someone in prison. The defendant may have learned their lesson simply by going through the turmoil of a criminal charge. With a compassionate court, this defense could keep someone out of prison.
There Was an Emergency
It is possible that you took a car out of necessity. Maybe you were injured or being pursued, and you saw a vehicle you could use. Out of desperation, you took that vehicle to safety, with every intent to return it later. With an understanding court, you could possibly avoid penalties.
You Were Under Duress
The law recognizes that sometimes we are forced to do things against our wills. This is why we have a duress defense. Perhaps you were told to take someone else’s car under the threat of violence. If you were acting under orders or out of fear, you may be able to demonstrate your innocence in court.