When talking about determining whether stealing a car is a felony or not, keep in mind that taking something without permission is a very serious offense, whether the intention was just to go for a joyride or to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently. The law recognizes two completely different things when it comes to stealing a car.
The difference between joyriding and grand theft auto.
There could be a number of occasions in which a person may be considered joyriding rather than stealing a car under the definition of grand theft auto. A joyride would generally be classified as a person taking the vehicle without permission, but without the intention of stealing it permanently. A son who does not have permission to take his mother’s car out could be considered taking it for joyride if he does so without her permission.
If a person steals a car and intends to bring it to a ‘chop shop’ or out of the country permanently, basically keeping the real owner from ever possessing it again, then that is considered grand theft auto.
Many states define joyriding as taking the vehicle without the owner’s consent without any real intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle or without the intent of temporarily depriving the owner of the vehicle. As you can see, it’s a significant difference between joyriding and stealing a car under the classification of grand theft auto. If the intention is to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, then that is often considered grand theft auto and that is a felony (Iowa.gov).
Why are you asking this question?
Many people turn to finding out various information about certain crimes when they or loved one has been charged with a particular crime. If you have a son or daughter, for example, who has just been arrested and charged with stealing a car, it is a very serious offense.
So is stealing a car a felony?
Even if the person who has been arrested and charged with stealing a car only had the intention of joyriding, and every intention of returning the vehicle to the owner when they were done, this could be classified as a felony. There are numerous factors that go into determining whether or not the prosecutor will charge the individual as a felony or misdemeanor.
Rarely is joyriding considered a misdemeanor, but it can certainly be dropped down if the owner of the vehicle requests that the prosecutor go lenient on the individual who has been charged with this particular crime.
One of the most important factors in determining whether a joyride is going to be charged as grand theft auto or a certain misdemeanor or completely dismissed will be determined on consent.
If the owner of the vehicle gave consent to the defendant in this case to use the vehicle, then there is no technical crime. Just because the individual who owns the car gave consent to the defendant to take the car at a previous time, that is not sufficient for a worthy defense on the part of the defendant. What is important in this particular situation would be to determine whether the defendant had consent to take the vehicle out at that specific time. If they didn’t, then a crime was committed.
Taking a car out for a joyride can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the conditions surrounding the crime, the jurisdiction, and the prosecutor. It can also depend significantly on the owner of the vehicle and what they wish to pursue with regard to charges. For example, if a person took the neighbor’s vehicle out for joyride, if that neighbor has had issues with this defendant in the past, he or she may press the prosecutor to go after the most significant charges possible, under the letter of the law.
Grand theft auto is a felony in all jurisdictions.
If a person is facing grand theft auto charges, and if that individual is claiming to have only taken the vehicle out for joyride, it can be an extremely unnerving situation to face. They may have been caught and pulled over by the police before they were able to return the vehicle and, if there is no clear intention that they had of returning the vehicle, they may very well be facing grand theft auto charges.
This is especially true if the defendant took a complete stranger’s vehicle out for this alleged joyride. It can also be true if they led police on a high-speed chase before being stopped, caused damage to other vehicles or property, or to the vehicle itself.
In the vast majority of cases, stealing a car is a felony and is a very serious offense. Even for a teenager, facing any type of motor vehicle theft, be it a misdemeanor or felony, can follow them around for many more years on their permanent record, even after they have served their sentence.
For that reason alone, it is absolutely essential that this person receive the best legal counsel they can to help them avoid a long and lengthy problem in the future.