California Vehicle Code 10851 – Driving Without The Owner's Consent/Joy Riding
This crime is charged all the time throughout LA county when people are caught driving another person's car without their permission. This can manifest itself in many different ways. One common thing that I've seen over the course of the last twenty-five years is someone will rent a car and, of course at first, they have permission because the rental car agency gives them permission and they sign all the papers and pay whatever money they have.
The problem comes in when they keep the car too long and don't return it when they're supposed to. At some point, the rental car company will call the police and say, basically that their car has been stolen and a lot of these cars are chipped and they're able to be found by the police and then the person is arrested for Vehicle Code Section 10851 – Driving Without the Owner's Consent or unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle. At some point the owner of a vehicle can obviously take their consent back if they gave it to you in the first place, if you've kept the car too long in that scenario I just mentioned.
Other scenarios can be friends or family members giving somebody a vehicle or giving the person permission and then they take the permission back for some reason – they get in an argument, they get mad. I've also seen boyfriend/girlfriend where one of them has leased a car for the other one and then they break up and the other person that has the car still wants to keep the car, doesn't want to make the payments for the car, and then eventually a police report is put in and the person is arrested for joy riding.
So, if you have one of these joy-riding cases, obviously you want to come in and sit down and give all the details and facts about what happened. One big thing that I see is that a lot of times someone is arrested for taking the vehicle without the owner's consent and only one version of events has been given to the police and the prosecutors. So, they don't have the full story about what happened. Once you get arrested and you have an attorney – if you hire that attorney and that attorney is given all the details by you – then a lot of times we can get the other version of events across to the prosecutors and usually work things out in the case.
Legal Defenses for Driving Without The Owner's Consent
One big defense in these cases is that you had consent to drive the vehicle. A lot of times I've seen people trying to take the consent back when they're really not in a position to do so. Obviously, if it's a husband and wife, everything's community property here in California, so no one's going to be able to take any consent back if once a vehicle is purchased by any funds by the community. There's a lot of other scenarios where people become angry at another person and they try to take away their right to a vehicle that they're driving, when they just really don't have the authority or the power to lawfully do it the right way.
But, of course, they give the police bad information, and so the police operating on that bad information a lot of times will arrest people and they really shouldn't have arrested them. Again, that's where a good criminal defense attorney comes in to argue the right things to either get the case dismissed or get the case mitigated down to something less. Other defenses are that you simply didn't have knowledge that you were not permitted to drive a certain vehicle, and this can spring from all different kinds of scenarios.
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Sometimes somebody lets one person borrow their vehicle and the person that borrows it thinks that the person's that's giving it to him has lawful possession of the vehicle, and they really didn't have lawful possession. Now the police pull the vehicle over, run it, see that it's listed as stolen, and now that person that's driving the car is arrested. So, again, this is where having a good attorney on your side to be able to give your side of the story, your version of events, and hopefully bring some evidence to bear on the issue, can do wonders for you.
So, what I do on these unlawful taking of a vehicle cases, I have the client come in the office, we sit down in the privacy of my law firm and I have the client give me all the details about what happened. Don't put any spin on it, don't omit anything. Give me everything that happened, step by step, and then we can really get down to the nitty-gritty as to whether or not you've got a defense to the joy-riding case, and if you do, then obviously we will put the pieces in place to assert that defense, and if you don't then we're going to figure out a damage control plan to get this charge behind you as soon as humanly possible.