When a friend or family member loans you a vehicle, it may come with some stipulations. You may promise to put gas in the car, drive below the speed limit or have the vehicle back within a certain time. Even if you do not keep these promises, you may not be breaking the law as long as your friend has given you permission to use the vehicle.
Taking someone’s vehicle without permission, however, can lead to serious trouble. In fact, it may lead to allegations of car theft, which carries significant penalties in Virginia and across the country. If you are facing charges of auto theft, you have every right to be concerned about your future.
Understanding the charges
Unlike many other states, Virginia does not have statutes and penalties specifically for the theft of vehicles. Instead, these crimes fall under the category of larceny. The severity of the charge of larceny depends on the value of the item. If you are accused of stealing a car worth more than $200, you will probably face charges of grand larceny. If police allege that you stole a vehicle with a value less than $200, you may face petit larceny charges. For grand larceny, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- That you stole someone else’s vehicle
- That the vehicle was worth more than $200
- That you did not have the owner’s permission to take the vehicle
- That you took the vehicle with no intention of returning it to the owner
A felony grand larceny conviction can lead to up to 20 years in prison. However, your intent may be the key to your case. If you were driving someone else’s vehicle with every intention of returning it, the law may consider it unauthorized use of a motor vehicle instead of larceny. Nevertheless, you may still be facing severe penalties even if a court convicts you of this lesser charge. If authorities accuse you of taking a vehicle by force, you may face a carjacking charge, which is a felony.
No matter if you are facing a one-year sentence for a misdemeanor unauthorized use of a vehicle or the potential for 20 years behind bars for grand larceny, you have much on the line. You certainly do not want to take a chance with your future by dealing with these serious matters on your own. Instead, the solid and aggressive representation of a Virginia attorney may benefit you as you build your defense.