Fairfax Criminal Lawyers | Virginia Defense Attorneys



By Nichols & Green PLLC

December 04, 2015

Unauthorized use of a vehicle under 18.2-102 is Virginia’s “joyriding” statute. If a person takes a car or boat or animal or plane and uses it without permission this is a form of stealing. If the property with worth more than $200 then it’s a felony. If it is worth less than $200 then it’s a misdemeanor.

The exact statute reads as follows:

“Any person who shall take, drive or use any animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, not his own, without the consent of the owner thereof and in the absence of the owner, and with intent temporarily to deprive the owner thereof of his possession thereof, without intent to steal the same, shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony; provided, however, that if the value of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel shall be less than $200, such person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The consent of the owner of an animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat, or vessel to its taking, driving, or using shall not, in any case, be presumed or implied because of such owner’s consent on a previous occasion to the taking, driving or using of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel by the same or a different person. Any person who assists in, or is a party or accessory to, or an accomplice in, any such unauthorized taking, driving or using shall be subject to the same punishment as if he were the principal offender.”

The big difference between normal larceny or auto theft and Unauthorized Use under 18.2-102 is the intentions of the defendant. If the Defendant intended on keeping the property forever, its normal felony automobile theft. If Defendant intended on giving the car back then its Unauthorized Use under 18.2-102. (See McEachern v. Com., 2008, 667 S.E.2d 343, 52 Va.App. 679)

A person can commit this crime whether they take the car with permission or without permission. Keeping a car longer than you have permission is a form of Unauthorized Use. So if a car owner loans you their car for a day and you keep the car for two days instead then you are guilty of Unauthorized Use. (See Tucker v. Com., 2004, 604 S.E.2d 66, 268 Va. 490.)

To be found guilty of Unauthorized Use under 18.2-102 the prosecutor and police must be able to prove that the Defendant knew they did not have permission. So if a driver is caught driving a stolen car, the prosecution must prove that the driver knew the car was stolen. (See Montague v. Com., 2003, 579 S.E.2d 667, 40 Va.App. 430)

The prosecution must prove that the Defendant had the intent of depriving the owner of possession of their property. This intent can be proven with circumstantial evidence, but it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (See  Blanks v. Gordon, 1960, 117 S.E.2d 82, 202 Va. 295.)

When a person is charged with Unauthorized Use of a vehicle under 18.2-102 the defendant must be tried and charged in the appropriate county or city. In order to have authority over the case, the court must where the driver was caught driving or using the vehicle without permission. (See Taylor v. Com., 2011, 708 S.E.2d 241, 58 Va.App. 185.)

Simply being caught as a passenger in a stolen or “borrowed” vehicle is not enough to be found guilty of being an accomplice to Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle under 18.2-102 (See Reese v. Com., 1985, 335 S.E.2d 266, 230 Va. 172)

Husbands and wives can be charged for taking each other’s car without permission unless the property has been declared the marital property in a divorce proceeding or they own the vehicle together. (See  McDuffie v. Com., 2006, 638 S.E.2d 139, 49 Va.App. 170.)

If you have been charged with Unauthorized Use of a Car, plane, animal, or vehicle in Northern Virginia, call the Law firm of Nichols & Green PLLC at (703) 383-9222 for a free consultation.