In Utah, automobile theft is classified within the broader theft and robbery laws. However, stealing a car has its own penalties. For example, stealing property that is valued between $500 and $1,500 is considered a class A misdemeanor and the punishment could be up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,500 fine. BUT if the property stolen is a car, even if its value is less than $1,500, the crime is automatically considered a second-degree felony. And that could mean one to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
So, whether someone steals a 1988 Honda Accord or a 2022 Tesla, the punishment is the same. There is no differentiation in the law for the value of the vehicle. If you steal a car, you steal a car, and that’s classified as a second-degree felony.
If a vehicle is taken in a way that would be considered an aggravated robbery, that is commonly called carjacking. Automobile theft that is a carjacking is a first-degree felony, punishable by five years to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
With such strict laws around the theft or robbery of a car, it’s important to know that there is also a lesser crime associated with taking a car. You may know the term joyriding, but Utah’s law for joyriding is legally called “unauthorized control for extended time.” Even though the punishment is less than automobile theft or carjacking, it’s still nothing to ignore.
Joyriding is classified in two ways: third-degree felony and class A misdemeanor.
If someone takes a car with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner of access, BUT returns the car within 24 hours, it’s considered a class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.)
However, if the car is damaged to gain entry, the car is used to commit a crime, or the car has more than $500 worth of damage, it is pushed up to a third-degree felony (punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000).
Even if you believed you had permission to use the car because the owner has let you use it before, if the person who owns the car claims you did not have permission in this circumstance, you could still be liable for a joyriding charge. So, be sure you have explicit permission to use someone’s car before you take it.
Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor for joyriding or a crime as severe as carjacking, the defense lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat have decades of experience to help you defend yourself in court. We know the complex details of the theft laws and legal system in Utah, and we will help you navigate your way to the best outcome.
Call us today at (801) 532-5297 for a free consultation or to get started on your defense.
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