CA Vehicle Code 10851(a)
Joyriding is defined as driving or taking a vehicle that does not belong to you without the owner’s permission. You may also be charged with joyriding if you are a passenger in such a vehicle.
For CA VC 10851(a), a vehicle includes a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, motor scooter, bus, school bus, commercial vehicle, truck tractor, trailer and semi-trailer. This list is not exhaustive.
Joyriding is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of joyriding as a misdemeanor, you may face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5000, or both. If you are convicted of felony joyriding, you may face up to 3 years in jail, a fine of up to $10000, or both.
Prosecuting a joyriding case
In order to convict you of joyriding, the prosecution must prove that you
1) Drove or took a vehicle
2) The vehicle did not belong to you
3) You did not have permission to drive or take the car
Taking a vehicle means moving the vehicle at all, no matter how far you took it. It also does not matter how long you had the vehicle. Depriving the owner of possession of the vehicle for any amount of time can be considered joyriding. It is also not a requirement that you intended to steal the vehicle.
Defending a joyriding case
One of the things your defense attorney can argue is that the vehicle actually belongs to you, or that you believed that it belonged to you. If you can prove that you own the vehicle, or that you had good reason to believe it did, you cannot be charged with joyriding. One of the reasons you might have believed a car was yours is in the case of divorce. If you shared a car with your spouse, and you were unaware after your separation that the car did not belong to you, then you cannot be charged with joyriding for driving that vehicle.
Another defense is that the owner of the vehicle gave you permission to borrow his or her car. Even if you lied to get that permission, once you have it, you cannot be charged with joyriding. However, it is important to note that even if the owner has given you permission in the past to use the vehicle that does not qualify as consent to let you borrow it in the future, and cannot be used as a defense. For instance, if your friend let you borrow his car to get to work last month, you do not have permission to take it to work tomorrow unless you ask him again, and he grants you permission.
If you have been charged with joyriding, it is important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Seppi Esfandi is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law who has over 16 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases, including joyriding.
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CA VC 10851(a) Any person who drives or takes a vehicle not his or her own, without the consent of the owner thereof, and with intent either to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner thereof of his or her title to or possession of the vehicle, whether with or without intent to steal the vehicle, or any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, is guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
CalCrim Jury Instruction 1820