The Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in Texas


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The Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in Texas

If you hop in and take off in an unoccupied vehicle, it can lead to theft charges. If you use force to gain control of an occupied vehicle, it can lead to carjacking charges. While you are unlikely to ever engage in either of these activities, you may think nothing of borrowing a car with the distinct intention of returning it. Doing so, however, can lead to the severe charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

The Charge

In Texas, the charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle refers to knowingly or intentionally operating someone else’s vehicle (including cars, boats, airplanes, and other motorized vehicles) without the owner’s consent. This act is often called joyriding because the intention is not to keep the vehicle for oneself. The charge boils down to borrowing without consent.

To convict on such a charge, the prosecution is not required to prove you intended to steal the car but needs to, instead, demonstrate that you did not have permission to drive it. The charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle differs substantially from the charges of theft and carjacking because the vehicle's value in question does not enter the equation. The charge and subsequent penalties for conviction remain the same for the lowliest to the finest vehicle on the market.

A Conviction

All of the following apply to the charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle:

  • It is a state jail felony, which is the least serious felony charge but still packs a significant legal punch that can seriously affect your future.

  • The penalties for a conviction include jail time of up to two years and fines of up to $10,000.

  • Such a crime is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means – because the record is available to the public – it can affect your ability to rent a house or apartment, to find a job, or even to pursue higher education opportunities.

A criminal record – regardless of the kind of charge – is something you should defend against as fully as possible. Bringing your most robust defense is always in you and your case’s best interest, and an experienced criminal lawyer can help you with that.

Your Defense Strategy

One of the most direct defense strategies in an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge is proving that you did have permission to use the vehicle – or that you reasonably thought you did. In fact, the prosecution is charged with proving that you did not have permission in the first place.

Call a Dedicated Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today

If you are facing an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a criminal defense lawyer with the experience, legal insight, and resources to help guide your case toward a beneficial resolution. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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