Use of a Vehicle Without Authority
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:
- You “used” the vehicle;
- You did so without permission from the owner or someone else who had the legal authority to give you permission; and
- 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 offensesPenalties 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.