CA Vehicle Code 10851(a) VC

VC 10851(a) – Joyriding

VC 10851(a) - Joyriding

Joyriding – Table of Contents

What is Joyriding?

Vehicle Code 10851a, often labelled ‘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 Vehicle Code 10851(a) if you are a passenger in such a vehicle.

For CA joyriding Vehicle Code 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 Vehicle Code 10851(a) is a “wobbler”, meaning it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of joyriding Vehicle Code 10851(a) 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 Vehicle Code 10851(a), you may face up to 3 years in jail, a fine of up to $10000, or both.

Prosecuting a VC 10851(a)

In order to convict you of joyriding Vehicle Code 10851(a), 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

Was it your Intention to Steal?

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 Vehicle Code 10851(a). It is also not a requirement that you intended to steal the vehicle.

Defending VC 10851(a)

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 Vehicle Code 10851(a). 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 Vehicle Code 10851(a) for driving that vehicle.

Permission from Owner

You Had Permission

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 Vehicle Code 10851(a). 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.

We Want to Help

If you have been charged with VC 10851(a) Joyriding, it is important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases, including joyriding Vehicle Code 10851(a).

Call Us for a FREE Case Review: 310-274-6529

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Lara S.
June 4, 2018
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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