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Does Borrowing Someone Else’s Car at a Holiday Party Count as Grand Theft Auto?

Okabe & Haushalter Dec 29, 2017 Grand Theft

The holidays are almost synonymous with family gatherings and Christmas parties. But can you be charged with grand theft auto if someone lends you their car during a party?

Fact: an estimated between 700,000 and 800,000 motor vehicles are stolen in the U.S. every year.

Imagine the following scenario: you arrive at a Christmas party with your relatives, family, and friends. Loads of alcohol flows, everybody gets tipsy, and one of the guests approaches you with car keys in his hand and tells you, “Hey, wanna take my car for a ride?”

Basically, what has just happened was the rightful owner of the car lent you their car during a holiday party. If you borrow someone else’s car and don’t return it, the owner will most likely report the stolen car to the police and you may be charged with auto theft.

But let’s find out what consequences you may be facing for borrowing someone else’s car. Our Chicago grand theft attorneys here at Okabe & Haushalter have spelled out what it really means to be charged with auto theft.

When you can be charged with grand theft auto in Chicago

Under auto theft state laws in Chicago and across Illinois, you may be charged with grand theft auto for knowingly and intentionally:

  • Taking control (stealing) of someone else’s property
  • Using deception to take control of someone else’s vehicle
  • Threatening the car owner to gain control of the vehicle
  • Gaining control over a stolen vehicle while knowing that the vehicle was stolen or has grounds to believe that the property may have been stolen.

Technically, you may not be charged with auto theft for borrowing someone else’s car at a holiday party if the car owner gave you their permission. However, even when the parties didn’t agree on a specific time and date to return the vehicle, the borrower is expected to return the car within a reasonable amount of time.

If the borrower fails to do so, the car owner may report the stolen car to the police, increasing your risk of getting charged with auto theft in Chicago.

Under other car theft laws in Chicago, a person may be charged with auto theft for joyriding (taking someone else’s vehicle for a ride without seeking their permission but with no intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car).

How to avoid being charged for grand theft auto

Our grand theft lawyers advise Chicago residents to think twice before taking someone else’s car for a ride even if the owner unambiguously gave you their consent at a holiday party.

Don’t forget that holiday parties usually involve alcohol consumption. Meaning: if the vehicle owner is intoxicated when lending you their car, they may be incapable of fully comprehending what’s happening.

Also, never drink and drive when operating yours or someone else’s vehicle, as you risk getting arrested not only for grand theft auto but also for DUI.

Penalties for auto theft may vary greatly depending on the circumstances of your particular case. The maximum prison time for vehicle theft may reach up to 30 years in addition to gigantic fines.

Grand theft laws in Chicago are not nearly as straightforward as you may think. Here at Okabe & Haushalter, our best grand theft lawyers have helped clients avoid being charged with auto theft after convincing judges and juries that the case lacked direct evidence and witness accounts to establish an intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

Consult our Chicago grand theft attorneys to find out the best legal options in your particular case. There are actually numerous viable ways to get you out of jail and avoid a conviction with a smart legal strategy.

Call our attorneys at 310-430-7799 or fill out this contact form to get a free initial consultation. We respect your right to confidentiality.