Joyriding may seem like harmless fun, but it is a crime in New Jersey. Even though the perpetrator intends to return the “borrowed” vehicle to its rightful owner when they take it, joyriding is an unauthorized taking of someone’s property that can lead to long months in prison and thousands in fines. For a minor, it can mean lengthy community service or possibly incarceration and other penalties that may keep them tied to the juvenile justice system for a long time. If you are the parent of a child charged with joyriding, or you are the one facing joyriding charges, you must not take it lightly. Seek legal advice from an experienced criminal attorney right away. Our Burlington County criminal defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay defend juveniles and adults charged with joyriding in Pemberton, Willingboro, Mount Holly, Burlington Township, Medford, Delanco, and other towns nearby. If you need assistance with a case involving joyriding, auto theft, receiving stolen property, carjacking, disorderly conduct, or another charge, call our office in Evesham, NJ at 609-850-8284 for a free consultation. You can also reach us online for additional guidance to explore your options.
What does NJ Law Say about Joyriding?
New Jersey law defines joyriding as the temporary but unauthorized taking and operating of a motor vehicle. So, when an individual drives off with someone’s car without their consent, intending to return it, they commit a crime. This charge is usually a fourth degree felony, also known as a 4th degree indictable offense (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10). Also known as the Unlawful Taking of a Means of Conveyance, a person who enters a motor vehicle and drives or rides in the car without the owner’s permission is guilty of joyriding if they intend to return the car upon entering it. The state must prove each element: the intentional but temporary non-consensual taking, entering the vehicle, and driving or riding in the vehicle.
What is the Difference between Joyriding and Motor Vehicle Theft in NJ?
The accused individual’s intent to return or leave the vehicle, rather than keep it, differentiates joyriding from other crimes. Since the joyrider does not intend to keep the vehicle, the state may not convict them of auto theft. A joyrider intends to temporarily deprive the owner of their vehicle use, while a thief guilty of motor vehicle theft wants to permanently deny the owner of their property. The distinction is crucial as the state must prove the intent in either crime, and auto theft convictions come with longer sentences and steeper fines.
How Serious is a Joyriding Charge in New Jersey?
Joyriding is typically a fourth degree crime punishable by a maximum 18 month prison sentence and a $7,500.00 fine. It can also be a disorderly persons offense for taking items of lesser value than a motor vehicle, such as a bicycle or scooter. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,500.00 in fines, with a minimum $500.00 mandatory penalty. But joyriding can be a third degree crime too, depending on the circumstances. When joyriding leads to other crimes and offenses, the grade level of the offense rises.
For example, someone taking someone else’s vehicle without permission may speed, drive dangerously, or commit other traffic violations that endanger or injure people or property. When a person charged with joyriding is accused of additional offenses while joyriding, the police may arrest and charge them with a third degree crime. A conviction for third degree joyriding carries a maximum 5 year prison sentence with a $15,000.00 fine.
What if I was just a passenger in the car?
Joyriding is terrible news for passengers and drivers alike. Those who go along for the ride, knowing the driver took someone else’s car without permission, can also commit joyriding. The state can charge a passenger with joyriding and hold them accountable for damages to property or injuries to people, even if they never drove the car. And if a minor was the driver or passenger, parents who inadequately supervised their child may also be liable for damages. Thus, a parent who does not keep track of their minor child’s activities or location may be responsible for the damages they cause while joyriding.
What Happens to a Juvenile Charged with Joyriding in New Jersey?
A family judge may not exercise leniency under aggravating circumstances when the joyrider is a minor. Judges aim to rehabilitate juveniles so that they may provide them with resources and more options to resolve the case, rather than incarceration. But some offenses warrant stiffer punishment. Joyriding juveniles might subject themselves to minimally 30 days of community service, unless they committed other offenses while joyriding. For example, a teenager who sneaks off with their parent’s car at night and causes serious bodily harm to another while fleeing the police may be sentenced to 60 days in a juvenile detention center or youth facility for joyriding and assault by auto. As long as a juvenile (or adult) takes a car without permission, they may be found guilty of joyriding, regardless of who owns the vehicle.
While a first-time joyriding charge may result in a sentence aimed at rehabilitating a juvenile rather than incarcerating them, repeat offenders get a minimum 30 day incarceration sentence. A first-time joyriding offense comes with a 60-day community service sentence.
What Other Charges May be Filed in a NJ Joyriding Case?
Both youths and adults may face multiple charges when joyriding. For example, eluding police while joyriding compounds the defendant’s problems in juvenile or adult court. Likewise, joyriding and injury accidents may result in civil claims and liability. And when the driver has alcohol or drugs in their system, they may face DWI and/or possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) charges. In addition, entering a garage to steal a motor vehicle may lead to burglary charges. Finally, a prosecutor may pursue auto theft charges if they believe a defendant cannot show that they intended to return the vehicle.
Mount Laurel Joyriding Defense Lawyer can Help with Your Case
For juveniles and adults, joyriding is a consequential offense requiring solid legal advice from an experienced joyriding defense attorney to avoid the maximum penalties the state imposes for joyriding and related offenses. A knowledgeable criminal and juvenile defense lawyer may be able to mount a successful defense regarding consent. For example, an adult who takes their spouse’s vehicle without permission during a hostile divorce may believe they have the right and authorization to take a car.
When a prosecutor alleges the defendant intended to steal a motor vehicle, a skilled criminal defense attorney can sometimes demonstrate how the defendant intended only to deprive the vehicle owner of their property temporarily. The defendant’s state of mind is a critical element of joyriding, so a passenger who did not know they were in a vehicle taken without permission may not end up facing the consequences of a joyriding conviction.
For all of these reasons and many more, it is critical to speak to a criminal defense attorney if you or your minor child are at risk of a conviction for joyriding. Contact the defense team at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay if you have been arrested, questioned, or charged with joyriding in Burlington County towns such as Tabernacle, Riverside, Shamong, Mount Laurel, Delran, Eastampton, and New Hanover. We offer free consultations and are available to assist you by calling 609-850-8284.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.
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