Unauthorized Use of Automobiles and Other Vehicles

Pittsburgh Theft Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with the crime of “joyriding” – formally known as the unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles – you could be exposed to serious consequences under Pennsylvania law.  The unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles is prosecuted as a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to two years imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines.

It’s important to note that joyriding is not the same as theft.  In Pennsylvania, joyriding involves the temporary possession of an automobile or other vehicle, whereas an auto theft offense requires an intention to take permanent possession.

How does the unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles offense work?  Let’s consider the basic elements.

Elements Defining the Offense

Pennsylvania law establishes the offense in Section 3928 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, where the law describes a guilty person as one who:

  1. Operates an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle of another;
  2. Without the consent of the owner.

For example, if you find a sports car in a retail parking lot with the keys still in the ignition and you decide to briefly take it “out for a spin,” you could be charged with the unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles.

Reasonable Belief of Owner’s Would-Be Consent

If you’ve been charged with the unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles, you may be able to avoid liability by establishing that you reasonably believed that the owner would have consented to the operation had they known of it.  In other words: if you can show that the circumstances were such that a reasonable person (in similar circumstances) would have assumed that consent “would have been” granted, you cannot be held liable for the offense.

Suppose that you are attending a friend’s summer pool party and you’d like to go to the store to get a pack of cigarettes.  As the party is quite busy, the driveway is packed and it would be difficult for you to organize partygoers to move their cars so you can take your own out to the store.  Instead, you take your friend’s car, which is not blocked.

Now, at first glance, this might seem like an unauthorized operation of the vehicle, but the defense may apply if we take a closer look.  Perhaps your friend has consistently consented to your use of their car in the past.  Given the circumstances, it’s fair to reason that your friend would have consented to the operation if they’d been asked.

Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation With an Experienced Pittsburgh Theft Defense Attorney

The attorneys at McKinney Law have decades of experience representing Pennsylvania criminal defendants, including those who have been charged with a theft offense, such as the unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles.

We believe that effective legal advocacy is highly accessible and client-focused.  We respond to any and all inquiries within a 24-hour turnaround time and are available for after-hours consultations.

Call (412) 520-3301 or send us a message to schedule a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation with a seasoned Pittsburgh theft defense attorney at McKinney Law.