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What is Joyriding?

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Joyriding is a temporary taking of a car or motorcycle (Vehicle Code § 10851), bicycle (Penal Code § 499b(a)), or boat (Penal Code § 499b(b)), without the owner’s permission. The taking is generally thought to be for enjoyment only and is often committed by juvenile males. When the use of the vehicle, bike or boat is no longer enjoyable, the user returns or intends to return the item to the owner. Sometimes, the vehicle, bike or boat runs out of gas before it can be returned.

In this regard, joyriding differs from theft because in theft, the intent is to permanently deprive the owner. The “joyrider” never intends to keep the vehicle, bike or boat, either for personal use of to sell it.

Joyriding is usually filed as a misdemeanor, but it can be filed as a felony. When committed by a juvenile, the court the case is brought in is juvenile court. Often, the joyrid
ing charge is just one of many charges in the case, which may also include DUI, petty theft, resisting arrest and evading a police officer. Sometimes, in worse cases, there is property damage and personal injury involved.

Depending upon the juvenile’s age and prior record, as well as the severity of the case, including the duration of the taking, such cases are often resolved over time with a dismissal through a delayed entry of plea or delayed entry of judgment arrangement. The juvenile, however, may serve time “home or probation” and may have to serve community service before receiving a dismissal.

When the client is not a juvenile, prosecutors file the case according to what code section is violated. When a violation of Vehicle Code § 10851 (car or motorcycle), Penal Code § 499b(a) (bicycle) or Penal Code § 499b(b) (boat) is alleged, a delayed entry of plea or delayed entry of judgment remains possible, especially if the client has no prior criminal history, is young, and the “victim” is not interested in prosecution, typically when the car, motorcycle, boat or bike is returned undamaged.

The defenses to joyriding are the owner’s consent, but this is often unavailable because it is usually the owner who calls the police. When the taking is for a very short period of time and/or a very short distance is travelled, it is possible to argue that the “taking” was too insignificant to merit a criminal action.

When a car or motorcycle is taken, the case may also filed as a violation of Vehicle Code § 10851, which is a “wobbler.” This means the prosecutor has the option of filing the case as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the circumstances of the case, the defendant’s age and the defendant’s criminal history.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Greg Hill, Greg Hill and Associates
This short article was written by Greg Hill. He is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Torrance, California. He is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate (B.S., 1987), Boston University graduate (M.B.A., 1994) and Loyola Law School graduate (J.D., 1998). Greg Hill & Associates represents clients in Torrance, Long Beach and the surrounding areas in DUI, as well as other crimes such as domestic violence, drug offenses, theft offenses and restraining orders, among other crimes.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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