Although there is no specific law under the Texas Penal Code that deals with automobile theft, stealing a car and using it for joyriding is illegal in Texas. It is prohibited to take another person’s property without the consent of the owner, with the intention of denying the owner his or her property. People who took another's property without intending to return it to the rightful owner has committed theft.
To illustrate, a criminal fleeing from a crime scene with a getaway car and leaving it somewhere else is considered theft. If you receive property knowing that it’s stolen, you become an accomplice to the crime. In addition, purchasing a car without the right title could be considered theft, as the court will presume that you know it is stolen property.
Classifying Theft and Other Automobile-Related Offenses
Under the Texas Penal Code, thefts are categorized based on the nature and value of the stolen property. The more valuable the properties stolen, the higher the penalty. The court relies on the property’s fair market or replacement value, says an experienced criminal lawyer in Houston.
As Houston's criminal lawyers reiterate, taking an automobile from a driver or owner by force is a severe crime. This is called carjacking, and is prosecuted under Texas’ robbery statutes. Operating an automobile without the consent of the owner is also a crime—this is known as joyriding. In contrast to automobile theft, the culprit plans to return the automobile. To illustrate, a teenager who sneaks out with his parent’s car in the middle of the night and then returns later may be charged with joyriding. In addition, not returning a rental vehicle is also considered theft.
Penalties for Automobile Theft
Theft penalties significantly vary from a fine of $500 to imprisonment for life, especially in cases of aggravated theft. Majority of convicted thieves will be penalized with a fine not exceeding $10,000 and 180 days of jail time to 10 years imprisonment. Joyriding is considered a state jail felony that carries a fine not more than $10,000 and between 180 days and two years of imprisonment.
Talk to your lawyer to know more about the legal processes regarding car theft, so you can assert your rights.