Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Auto Theft in Texas By Jason Trumpler, P.C. on July 19, 2017

Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Auto Theft Lawyer in Austin, Texas

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Prosecutors generally charge auto theft in Texas in a very generic way. In Texas, prosecutors typically charge auto theft under Penal Code Section 31.07, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, which is a State Jail Felony. The punishment range for a State Jail Felony is:

  • Six Months to Two years in the State Jail, Day for Day; and,
  • A Fine Up to $10,000.

Prosecutors occasionally charge auto theft under the general theft statute. Most prosecutors only do this if the value of the automobile is more than $30,000, thereby making the offense a 3rd-Degree Felony. The punishment range for a 3rd-Degree Felony is:

  • Two to Ten Years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division; and,
  • A Fine Up to $10,000.
Proving the offense of Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle is rather easy. A person commits the crime if he or she:
  1. Intentionally or knowingly;
  2. Operates another's boat, airplane, or motor-propelled vehicle;
  3. Without the valid consent of the owner.

Unlike the general theft statute, it does not require the intent to deprive the owner of property. The lack of "intent to deprive" makes the offense of joyriding a State Jail Felony. Merely taking a car without the owner's consent is Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle. Not having to prove intent is why prosecutors usually charge auto theft as Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle.

The two primary defenses to auto theft are:

  1. Consent. This defense is valid if the prosecutor charges it as either Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle or theft. I argue that you believed the owner gave you consent to use the vehicle.
  2. Lack of intent. This defense is only valid if the prosecutor charge it under the if theft statute. I argue that you did not have the "intent to deprive" the owner of the vehicle.

A criminal conviction for auto theft or Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle can have severe consequences. A theft charge is a crime of moral turpitude. If the State convicts you of a crime of moral turpitude, most employers will not hire you. Moreover, most auto theft offenses, precisely, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, are charged as felonies. A felony conviction can result in jail or prison, lengthy community supervision, and a criminal record. A felony conviction can have a dramatic impact on your future.

If you have any questions about your charge of auto theft or Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, call Austin Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle Attorney Jason Trumpler, anytime, at 512-457-5200. Attorney Jason Trumpler has a long history of getting his clients' excellent results when facing criminal charges.

Austin Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Trumpler can also help if the State has charged you or someone you know with any other type of criminal offense, including, but not limited to:

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