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Use of a Vehicle Without Authority

Criminal Defense Attorney Skillfully Represents Boston Residents

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to take or use another’s property without their permission. Motor vehicles are no exception. A conviction for the use of a vehicle without authority can bring significant and life-changing consequences. The assistance of a knowledgeable defense lawyer is imperative to protecting your rights and your freedom. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, Attorney Murphy routinely handles cases involving joyriding, car theft, and other Boston motor vehicle offenses.

What is Use of a Vehicle Without Authority?

Massachusetts law provides detailed laws regarding the use of vehicles in Chapter 90 Section 24. Among the crimes outlined in this section is the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, or joyriding.

To prove you guilty of the use of a vehicle without authority, the government must establish each of the crime’s elements:

  1. You “used” the vehicle;
  2. You did so without permission from the owner or someone else who had the legal authority to give you permission; and
  3. You knew you were not authorized to use the vehicle.

To prove the “use” element of the offense, the government does not necessarily need to show that you were driving. Courts have upheld convictions for those who were passengers in a moving vehicle. However, like most other crimes, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle contains a knowledge requirement. Thus, unless the government can prove that you knew you didn’t have permission beyond a reasonable doubt, a judge or jury cannot convict you.

The government’s attorney may try to prove you knew you didn’t have permission in one of several ways. For example, if you made a statement to police or detectives that you borrowed another’s car without asking. However, absent this direct evidence of knowledge, the government may rely on other facts, such as:

  • Whether the door locks were broken;
  • Whether the car was hotwired or the ignition was otherwise damaged;
  • Whether you had the keys in your possession;
  • Whether the car had significant damage;
  • Your demeanor when interacting with police; and
  • The reason you gave police for having the car.

Use of a vehicle without authority is a lesser-included offense of larceny of a motor vehicle, or car theft. This means that a judge or jury cannot convict you of both crimes. However, prosecutors will often charge both offenses

Penalties for the Use of a Vehicle Without Authority

If convicted of using another’s vehicle without permission, you will face a jail sentence of between 30 days to two years and a fine of up to $500. A second conviction carries a minimum sentence of 30 days to 2.5 years in a house of correction, with a maximum of up to five years in state prison. A third conviction for using a vehicle without authorization can result in a mandatory sentence of at least 30 days in a house of correction or 2.5 years in state prison.

Negotiating More Serious Boston Car Theft Charges

Use of a vehicle without authority is a lesser-included offense of larceny of a motor vehicle, or car theft. The main difference between the two crimes is that larceny of a motor vehicle requires proof you intended to “permanently deprive” the owner of the vehicle.

While you cannot be convicted and sentenced for both crimes, prosecutors will often charge both offenses. This is because it allows prosecutors to hedge their bets; if the prosecution cannot prove you intended not to give the car back, the judge or jury could still convict you of the lesser offense.

While this may seem unfair, you may be able to use this tactic to your advantage. For example, if you face larceny of a motor vehicle charges, your lawyer can point out the weaknesses of a prosecutor’s case sowing. This may sow doubt in the prosecutor’s mind about their ability to obtain a conviction. In turn, they may be willing to offer you a deal on the less serious joyriding charge.

Is the Government Claiming You Used Another’s Car Without Permission?

If you are facing any type of Boston motor vehicle offense, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Attorney Murphy has been representing clients charged with serious theft offenses for more than 25 years. He understands how to negotiate with prosecutors to get the most serious charges taken off the table. However, as an experienced trial attorney, he won’t hesitate to take your case to trial when the government refuses to offer you a fair deal. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Boston criminal defense attorney, call (617) 367-0450 today.

Client Reviews
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"Highly Recommended. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy absolutely helped me out in my time of need. When I met him in his Boston office he put me right at ease and explained the criminal process to me in a way I could easily understand and in a manner that gave me complete confidence. I was facing a criminal wanton destruction of property charge in Barnstable District Court. On the day of the case, he was at the courthouse waiting for me and my wife. Mr. Murphy handled the hearing in a very thorough and professional manner putting us through our testimony and making a powerful argument to the decision maker. My case was thrown out and I could not be happier with the service from Attorney Murphy. I highly recommend him to you as a skilled legal advocate!" Rob, Avvo User
★★★★★
"Excellent Criminal Defense Lawyer. From the first consultation I knew Patrick Murphy was the right choice for my criminal defense. He was knowledgeable of the laws and knew how to build up a strong defense for my case. Every phone call and email I made was promptly answered. When it came time for my hearing, Patrick was prepared and able to get the criminal complaint against me dropped without ever becoming charge! Would highly recommend this attorney to anyone seeking a top quality defense attorney to handle their case!" John, Avvo User
★★★★★
"OUI Not Guilty Verdict. Patrick Murphy provided excellent service as council on my case. He worked diligently over a long legal process that spanned over 3 years. He was able to take my case to a Jury Trial and get me a Not Guilty verdict through he expert knowledge of the law and expertise in cross examination of the prosecutions witnesses. He was very professional and available at anytime night or day to answer questions." Chris, Avvo User
★★★★★
"Highly Skilled and Professional Lawyer. Attorney Pat Murphy did a great job guiding me through an A&B charge, and most importantly getting the case dismissed in a very timely manner. He is very professional, returns call promptly, and did a great explaining his strategy and the legal process to me. I was confident throughout the whole process that I was in good hands and would receive the best possible outcome in my case. Would highly recommended Attorney Murphy." Avvo User
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"I Felt That I was in Good Hands... and I Was! Mr. Patrick J. Murphy was very quick to respond to my needs. He was always there to answer any questions I had in a timely fashion, and he made me feel very comfortable in an extremely uncomfortable situation. Having Mr. Murphy by my side in the courtroom felt like I was at an advantage. He speaks with confidence. He doesn't stutter or pause while put on the spot. He treated me with respect. He listens. He always greeted me with a warm welcome and never wasted any time." Avvo User