Motor vehicle theft, carjacking, and joyriding are all serious crimes in Louisiana and a conviction can result in a long prison sentence. For more information on motor vehicle theft and other thefts, see Grand Theft Auto and Louisiana Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Louisiana law specifically prohibits motor vehicle theft. Under state law, a person commits the crime of motor vehicle theft by taking a motor vehicle that belongs to someone else either without the owner’s permission or by fraud and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. A person intends to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle if the person does not intend to return the car. For example, a person who breaks into someone else’s car in a parking lot and drives away to a “chop shop” has committed theft. A person who poses as a mechanic to obtain the key to a person’s car and takes the car has also committed theft. A person also commits motor vehicle theft in Louisiana by taking possession of a car that is mis-delivered or lost or that the defendant knows (or should have known) is stolen. (La. Rev. Stat. § 14:67.26.)
Like many other states, Louisiana classifies motor vehicle thefts based on the value of the property stolen. The more valuable the stolen vehicle, the more severely the theft is punished.
Carjacking is a more serious offense than theft. Under Louisiana law, a person commits the crime of carjacking by taking a motor vehicle that belongs to someone else from the owner or passenger by means of force or intimidation. For example, an armed person who forces a passenger out of a parked car and drives away has committed the crime of carjacking. (La. Rev. Stat. § 14:64.2.)
Taking a car intending to return it is also a crime, albeit is a less serious offense than carjacking or theft. A person in Louisiana commits the offense of joyriding, also called unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, by taking or using a vehicle that belongs to someone else without permission (or by fraud) but without the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. (La. Rev. Stat. § 14:68.4.) For example, a child who takes a friend’s car without the friend’s consent but who intends to return the car could be convicted of joyriding. For more information on this crime, see What is the Difference Between Joyriding and Stealing a Car?
Louisiana law also criminalizes failing to return a rental car at the end of the rental agreement or using a false name or address to rent a car. (La. Rev. Stat. § 14:220.)
There are two commonly used defenses in motor vehicle theft cases. The first defense that might be asserted is that the defendant had (or believed he or she had) the owner’s permission or consent to use the vehicle. However, even if a person occasionally has permission to use a vehicle, the person must have had permission to use the vehicle on the instance in question. The second defense that might be asserted is that the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, in which case the crime would be joyriding instead of theft.
Theft of a motor vehicle worth less than $500 is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Theft of a motor vehicle worth $500 or more but less than $1,500 is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Theft of a motor vehicle worth $1,500 or more is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. Carjacking is punishable by two to 20 years in prison. Joyriding is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Failing to return a rental car is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of to $500, or both. For more information on sentencing, see Louisiana Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Louisiana Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
A conviction for motor vehicle theft, carjacking, or joyriding can result in a long prison sentence and a serious criminal record. If you are charged with a crime, you should talk to a Louisiana criminal defense attorney about your case as soon as possible. Only an experienced local attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to protect your rights.