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Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation (Joyriding) in Arizona

According to Arizona Revised Statute §13-1803, the unlawful use of means of transportation is a felony, and the class of felony depends on whether the person charged actually took the vehicle without permission (and they only intended to take the car temporarily). This is also known as joyriding in Arizona, this means that someone can be charged even if they were just a passenger in a vehicle.

According to the statute, anyone who is convicted of knowingly takes another person’s means of transportation that is unauthorized by the owner is guilty of a Class 5 Felony. Anyone convicted of being knowingly transported or is physically located in a vehicle (i.e. a passenger) that was taken without permission is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Difference Between Joyriding Charges in Arizona and Auto Theft

One of the main differences between auto theft and joyriding charges in Arizona is that the person who took the vehicle unlawfully did not intend to keep it, but intended to return it to the rightful owner after the joyride. This often occurs with teenagers who take a parent’s vehicle without their permission, or someone who rents a vehicle and then fails to return it when promised. The person who took the vehicle did not intend to actually steal the vehicle, but to take a “joyride” and return it once they were finished. In most cases, auto thieves choose vehicles that belong to people they don’t know and they have no intention of returning the car once they are finished using the vehicle.

David Michael Cantor explains the Joyriding charges:


Penalties for Unlawful Use of Means of Transportation

The minimum sentence after a conviction for unlawful use of means of a vehicle in Arizona for the person who actually took the vehicle is a minimum 9 to 18 months and a maximum of two years in prison. If the state can prove aggravated circumstances, the sentence could be as much as 2.5 years of incarceration. For those convicted of the offense who were passengers in the vehicle, the penalty is a minimum of three and six months in prison to a maximum of 18 months in prison. Aggravating circumstances could increase the jail term to two years.

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Defenses to Joyriding Statute

There are several defenses to charges of unlawful use of means of a vehicle in Arizona and they include:

  • Lack of Knowledge – One of the most common defenses to this statute is that the defendant had no knowledge that there was not permission to use the vehicle. If a friend arrives in someone else’s car to pick up another friend, the second friend may have no knowledge that the vehicle was taken without the owner’s permission. This is determined by interviewing all who were present regarding the circumstances of obtaining the vehicle as well as to gain information not only about the person who took the vehicle, but to the person who owns it.
  • Miranda Rights Violations – Arizona has stricter laws regarding exculpatory statements and their admissibility in court. In some cases, defendants are not properly provided with their Miranda Rights, which would make any comments made to the police inadmissible in court.
  • Coerced statements – There have been many incidences of police intimidating or tricking defendants to admit wrongdoing. Just as in a case where a defendant does not get a proper reading of their Miranda Rights can result in any confession deemed inadmissible in court, a coerced confession is also considered “tainted,” and a judge may agree that it may not be used against the defendant in court.
  • Denial of Right of Counsel – As soon as a suspect requests to speak to an attorney, police must cease questioning, provide the defendant with a private location to contact their attorney, and provide a telephone book or list of lawyers that the defendant may call in order to preserve their rights. If the police deny the request or do not provide a private area for the suspect to speak to an attorney, the case may be dismissed.
  • Scientific Errors – Often, defense attorneys find forensic flaws that occur during the investigation of the case, including laboratory tests, fingerprint analysis or DNA testing. These errors could cause someone to be falsely accused of a crime, and correction of the error could provide exoneration.
  • Police Errors – Often, misleading or carelessly written police reports could lead to a joyriding charge in Arizona. Misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups or inaccurate crime scene reconstruction often leads to false arrest in Arizona.

If you or someone you love has been charged with unlawful use of means of a vehicle, these options may help. To speak with an attorney about charges, please give us a call at (602) 307-0808 to schedule a Free Case Consultation. If you would like to send us a confidential email, please use our web form.

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