Is Joyriding Motor Vehicle Theft?

July 31, 2019

Joyriding is taking a motor vehicle and operating it without the owner’s consent. The vehicle is usually returned or abandoned after use. It’s usually associated with a car but can include other motor vehicles, like boats, as well.

Although joyriding isn’t an official term in the Criminal code, it is treated separately from motor vehicle theft. Technically, joyriding falls under, “taking motor vehicle or vessel or therein without consent (CC S.335).”

The Difference Between Joyriding and Auto Theft

On the surface, joyriding seems like it’s simply a more lighthearted name for auto theft. Taking someone else’s property without their permission or knowledge does sound a lot like theft. But the key difference between these charges is intent.

In motor vehicle theft, the offence involves taking a vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. This could mean stealing the vehicle to sell it. Auto theft has more permanency.

Joyriding charges involve a more temporary intent. The offence still involves taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent. But, in joyriding, there is no intention of permanently depriving the owner of the vehicle. A common example is a teenager taking their parent’s car without permission to use while sneaking out.

Another key difference is the severity of the penalties.

Motor vehicle theft is generally treated much more severely. It is usually treated as an indictable offence, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years. For joyriding charges, the Crown pursues a summary conviction. Auto theft is similar to theft over $5000.

For an more detailed explanation of the Summary Offences vs Indictable Offences please refer to the article: Differences Between Summary vs Indictable and Hybrid Offences.

Consequences of “Joyriding” Charges

It is possible to face jail time for joyriding in Toronto. However, there are a vast array of factors that can influence the sentencing. For instance, some aggravating factors can include:

  • Using the vehicle with the intent to commit another crime
  • Damaging the vehicle, willfully or unintentionally
  • Not returning the car for a significant amount of time (often 48+ hours)
  • Other charges, eg. impaired driving or reckless driving

Joyriding is eligible for a wide range of consequences. The most severe is up to 18 months in prison. But there are a variety of other options available.

If there is damage done to the vehicle, or if using the vehicle resulted in financial losses, you may need to pay restitution. Even if paid you may still be convicted, you may also have to pay a fine.

In some instances, you may have your licence suspended as well.

Some lighter sentences include probation or community service. As an offence frequently associated with youth, there are more sentencing options available.

Is Joyriding Exclusive to Youth?

Although joyriding is most common among young offenders, adults can face these charges as well. An adult does not, however, go through the same process. Offenders over the age of 18 face trial in a traditional court setting.

The special considerations for young offenders, set out by the Youth Criminal Justice Act see them dealt with differently. Youth between 12 and 18 appear in Youth Justice Court and they are subject to a wider range of sentencing options.

Can a Passenger Face Charges as Well?

In both motor vehicle theft and joyriding, the passenger can also face charges. For either case, the passenger can only be charged if they were aware that the vehicle was taken without the owner’s intent.

An example could be if you go in a car with a friend whose parents usually let them take it. You could reasonably assume they have permission here. However, this does not hold true for the driver. Consent for borrowing a vehicle needs to be given for each specific use, and not assumed from past experience.

Hire a Theft Lawyer in Toronto

If you or a loved one are facing charges involving motor vehicle theft or joyriding, your first step should be to contact a criminal defence lawyer.

William Jaksa is a Toronto defence attorney who has experience in theft offences and youth criminal justice. Contact us today for a consultation.

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