Car Theft – Joy Riding

Car theft is the taking of a vehicle with the intent of keeping it. In New Jersey, car theft is often charged as Theft by Unlawful Taking of Movable Property under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. Under this statute a person is guilty of theft if the person unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him of the property.

To be convicted of Theft by Unlawful Taking, the State must prove the following:
– that you knowingly took or unlawfully exercised control over movable property;
– that the movable property belonged to another;
– that your purpose in taking the movable property was to deprive the rightful owner of the movable property
– that you intended to either keep the property or get rid of it so that the rightful owner could not recover it.

If you did not intend to “permanently” deprive the owner of the motor vehicle you took, you may be charged with Unlawful Taking of a Means of Conveyance under N.J.SA. 2C:20-2.1. This is a third degree offense, punishable by three to five years in state prison and a maximum fine of $15.000. For a first offense there is an additional $500 fine and one year license suspension. For a second offense, the additional fine is $1000 with a two year license suspension. For a third offense the additional fine is $1000 with a ten year loss of license.

Joy riding is the illegal taking of a vehicle for temporary, recreational use. Whenever you take someone’s bicycle, car, truck, motorcycle or boat without their permission, with the intent of using it with no intent to keep it, you can be charged with joy riding. It is no defense to the charge that you “only had it for a short time” or that “you returned it undamaged” or that “you were just a passenger”. All participants are criminally charged and are held responsible for committing the crime.

In New Jersey, joy riding is a fourth degree crime – punishable by up to 18 months incarceration and maximum fine of $7,500. If charged with additional offenses such as reckless driving, property damage, injuring or endangering other people, this charge can be upgraded to a third degree offense, punishable by a prison term of three to five years’ incarceration and a maximum fine of $15,000.

The law imposes mandatory penalties for juveniles who commit other crimes while joy riding, including
– A minimum of 60 days incarceration if also convicted of aggravated assault as a result of joy riding or eluding police;
– A minimum of 30 days incarceration for repeat offenders guilty of joy riding;
– Mandatory community service for of 60 days for the first offense of stealing a motor vehicle, joy riding or eluding police

Additionally, New Jersey law allows prosecutors to hold parents accountable for failing to supervise a child who steals a car by ordering parents to pay restitution to the victim(s).

If you have been charged with either of these offenses, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who will be able to advise you regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the case against you. Your attorney will be able to negotiate on your behalf in seeking penalties less than the statutory maximum – depending on your prior criminal history or lack thereof.

Contact Attorney Gwendolyn O. Austin at (973) 735-2706 or on line to schedule your free, confidential consultation. I offer affordable rates and accept major credit cards for your convenience.