Like other states, Oklahoma has laws prohibiting motor vehicle theft, carjacking, and joyriding. For more general information on motor vehicle theft, see Grand Theft Auto.
Oklahoma’s lawmakers have criminalized taking another person’s property, including a motor vehicle, by “fraud or stealth” with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. (Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § § 1701, 1720.) For example, a professional thief who breaks into a car, steals it, and takes it to a “chop shop” to sell it has committed theft. For more general information on theft, see Oklahoma Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Carjacking – taking a vehicle from a driver or passenger by force or threat of force or while armed – can be prosecuted under Oklahoma’s robbery law. Due to the violent nature of the offense, carjacking is a serious crime and usually carries stiff penalties.
Most states, including Oklahoma, have laws that prohibit joyriding, a less serious offense than theft. In Oklahoma, it is a crime for a person to drive or attempt to drive someone else’s vehicle without permission. (Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § § 1787, 1788.) For example, a person who “borrows” a friend’s car without asking and without permission has committed the crime of joyriding. For more information, see What is the Difference Between Joyriding and Stealing a Car?
A person who fails to return a rental car could be prosecuted for theft. It is also a crime in Oklahoma to pay for a rental car with a fake or worthless check with the intent to cheat the rental car company. The punishment for the crime depends on the value of the fake or worthless check. (Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1521.)
There are two common defenses used in motor vehicle theft cases. The first common defense is that the defendants had (or believed they had) the owners’ permission or consent to use the vehicle. The relevant question is not whether the defendant sometimes had permission to use the vehicle, but whether the defendant had permission to use the vehicle at the particular time in question. The second common defense is that the defendant did not intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle, in which case the crime would be joyriding instead of motor vehicle theft.
Motor vehicle theft is punishable by three to 20 years in prison, a fine equal to three times the value of the stolen vehicle (up to $500,000), or both incarceration and a fine. The court can also order the defendant to pay restitution (repayment to the victim for any damages suffered or financial losses due to the crime).
Joyriding is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of $100 to $500, or both. Paying for a rental car with a fake or worthless check is punishable by six months to seven years in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. For more information on sentencing, see Oklahoma Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Oklahoma Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Any criminal conviction can have serious consequences. If you are charged with or accused of any crime, including theft or joyriding, you should talk to an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney. The assistance of an experienced attorney is your best hope to obtain a good outcome, such as the dismissal of the charges, a not guilty verdict, a plea bargain, or a less severe punishment than the maximum allowed by law.