What is a Joyriding Charge in Utah?

A joyriding charging in Utah is a serious offense. The penalties for joyriding may vary depending on what the vehicle is used for. If you or a family member was charged with a joyriding offense, you should speak with an experienced Salt Lake City traffic ticket attorney. Darwin Overson has served clients in Salt Lake City and across Utah for over 16 years and would be proud to represent you. Overson Law has extensive experience dealing with several types of criminal proceedings, and we will use that experience to fight for you. Overson Law is here to explain what a joyriding charge means in Utah.

The Definition of Joyriding Under Utah Law

In Utah, a joyriding offense is officially known as “unauthorized control over a motor vehicle for an extended time.” To be convicted of having unauthorized control over a motor vehicle, you must have the intent to deprive another person of their vehicle temporarily.

The “intent to deprive” means you did not intend to return the vehicle to its owner, either permanently or for a limited amount of time. Utah Code § 41-1a-1314 does not define how long the owner of the car must be “temporarily” deprived before you can be charged with joyriding. However, a joyriding offense will escalate to a higher offense if the vehicle is not returned to the owner within 24 hours.

Joyriding is also a lesser-included offense for auto theft. Having unauthorized control over a vehicle for over 24 hours could mean being charged with auto theft instead of joyriding. By not returning the vehicle within 24 hours you no longer had the intent to deprive the property owner of their vehicle temporarily. Additionally, if law enforcement locates the vehicle before it is returned, this may also lead to being charged with an auto theft offense. It does not matter if the police discovered the vehicle within 24 hours.

Taking another person’s vehicle without their consent for any purpose may cause you to be charged with joyriding in Utah. Even if the vehicle belongs to a close member of your family, it is always smart to ask for consent to drive it rather than assuming you have the right to use it. If an individual believes their car was stolen, they may contact law enforcement. If an officer finds you in possession of the missing vehicle, they may not be inclined to listen to your side of the story.

If you were charged with joyriding over a misunderstanding, an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer might be able to help you.

Penalties for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in Salt Lake City

The penalties for joyriding in Salt Lake City vary depending on the circumstances. For example, if a joyrider returns the vehicle within 24 hours, they may only be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and fine of up to $2,500.

The severity of a joyriding offense depends on who returned the vehicle. If law enforcement locates and returns the vehicle to the owner within 24 hours, a defendant may be charged with a third degree felony for joyriding. If the defendant or one of the defendant’s agents returned the vehicle within 24 hours, the defendant would likely be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. It is not a defense that another person besides the defendant, or an agent of the defendant, returned the vehicle within 24 hours.

The following circumstances may also cause a joyriding charge to be escalated to a third degree felony:

  • The joyrider damaged the vehicle, requiring repairs costing $500 or more.
  • The joyrider used the vehicle to commit a felony.
  • The joyrider damaged the vehicle to enter or start the car (g., by breaking into or “hotwiring” the vehicle).

Third degree felonies are the lowest level of felony in Utah. However, they still carry a stiff penalty. A third degree felony in Utah is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

If the joyrider takes another person’s vehicle with no intention of returning it, they may be charged with auto theft, which is a second degree felony. In Utah, this offense carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. You may also incur other penalties as a result of joyriding, like license suspension.

Mitigating Factors For Felony Joyriding Offenses

If you are charged with a felony for joyriding, some mitigating factors could reduce your offense. Utah’s courts have designated three specific factors that can help an individual receive a lesser offense, these factors are:

  • The offender was “exceptionally cooperative” with law enforcement.
  • The offender exhibited behavior that made them a good candidate for rehabilitation.
  • The joyrider possesses developmental disabilities.

If you meet one of these factors and you retain an experienced criminal attorney, you may have your joyriding offense reduced to a misdemeanor. However, if you are a repeat offender or this offense was a probation violation, you may not meet these requirements.

Salt Lake City Criminal Attorneys Can Help Fight Your Joyriding Case

If you or a family member was charged with joyriding in Utah, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer. Overson Law understands how stressful it is to navigate the criminal justice system, and we are here to help you fight your joyriding offense. To schedule a free consultation with Darwin Overson, call us at (801) 758-2287 or reach us online.