If Your Teen “Borrows” a Car Without Permission, He May Be Subject to Criminal Penalties

Joyriding—or, as it's technically called in Virginia, “unauthorized use of a vehicle”—can have extremely serious consequences for juvenile drivers. If you are a high school or college student, with or without a driver's license, who takes your parents' car out for a spin while they aren't paying attention or “borrows” your friend's car while he's buying doughnuts in a convenience store, you could be facing thousands of dollars in fines or even time in jail.

Some Joyrides Are More “Innocent” Than Others

As a general rule, the police distinguish between two types of joyriding:

  • Bored or mischievous teenagers who drive their parents' cars without permission might get off the hook without bearing the full brunt of the law, provided that their joyride doesn't result in any damage or injuries and their parents don't want to press charges. (Of course, the police would have to catch the offending teen on the road, which means that he may well have committed some kind of traffic infraction.)
  • Much more serious is when a teen (or group of teens) appropriates a vehicle belonging to a neighbor or even a complete stranger, and is pulled over by the police or apprehended later, after they have abandoned the vehicle by the side of the road. At the discretion of the police and the owner of the vehicle, this could even be prosecuted as car theft, in which case a criminal lawyer will be needed.

Joyriding, in and of itself, might not seem like such a serious violation. After all, we were all teenagers once, and kids are known to exercise poor judgment every now and then. The trouble arises when a joyriding incident turns into something much more serious—say, the teen driver collides with another vehicle, or is involved in a hit-and-run accident in Virginia. In these cases, not only will the teen be subject to misdemeanor or felony charges, but also his parents (if that's where he obtained the vehicle) will probably be responsible for the full extent of the damage.

Was Your Teen Involved in a Joyriding Incident? You Need Expert Legal Representation

If, as stated above, the owner of the vehicle your teen decided to take for a spin presses charges, he may wind up being prosecuted for car theft—in which case you need to hire a criminal attorney. If, on the other hand, your teenager has been charged by the authorities with unauthorized use of a vehicle in Virginia, call the Virginia traffic lawyers at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC today at 888-783-9701 for a free consultation.