On January 29, 2019 a vehicle was reported stolen near Whispering Leaves Drive and Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita. When deputies located the vehicle, they attempted to make contact with the suspect, but he ran from them. A containment area was set up and the suspect was caught less than an hour later. He was arrested under suspicion of unlawfully taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, as well as two other warrants, including vandalism and violation of a domestic court order.
Driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent is covered under California Vehicle Code 10851 VC. It can be charged when someone drives or takes a vehicle without the owner’s consent, and with the intention of depriving the owner of the vehicle for any length of time. VC 10851 is often referred to as “joyriding,” because it isn’t quite the same as grand theft auto (GTA) which is covered under California Penal Code 487(d)(1)PC.
The two crimes are similar in many respects in that they both involve taking someone else’s car without the owner’s permission. The major difference between the two revolves around how long the suspect intended to keep the vehicle. Generally, when someone steals a car with the intention of depriving the owner of it permanently (whether by keeping it themselves or selling it), the person will be charged with GTA – a straight felony. If, however, a person takes a car without permission with the intention of keeping it only for a short while, it’s more likely they will be charged with joyriding – which is a “wobbler.”
A lot of California crimes are “wobblers,” which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal record. When “joyriding” is charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If charged as a felony, the potential penalties are increased to 16 months to 3 years in county jail.