California Vehile Code § 10851 (a). Any person who drives or takes a vehicle not his or her own, without the consent of the owner thereof, and with intent either to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner thereof of his or her title to or possession of the vehicle, whether with or without intent to steal the vehicle, or any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, is guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
This crime is similar to grand theft auto in that involves a defendant taking a vehicle without the consent of the owner. Please see section on “grand theft auto.”
Typically charged as a misdemeanor, a defendant charged with this crime may be able to successfully defend on the theory of consent or lack of intention. Consent means that the owner of the vehicle gave you permission to drive the vehicle for a period of time. It is important to note that the defendant must stay within that scope of permission. For example, if a friend said that you may drive his Bentley to grab some groceries, you cannot drive the Bentley to Vegas. That would be outside of the scope of consent.
Our law office would also explore other defenses, like whether the defendant had the intent to deprive the owner of his or her title. Furthermore, with a crime like joyriding – police sometime engage in unconstitutional searches and seizures. We would be aggressive in our defense on possible constitutional issues.