Oregon law criminalizes motor vehicle theft, joyriding, failing to return a rental car, and carjacking. Most of the time, these crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison. For more general information on motor vehicle theft, see Grand Theft Auto.
Oregon has a broad law that prohibits taking another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. For example, a person who uses a master key to open and start another person’s car and takes the car with the intent to sell it on the black marked has committed theft. Oregon law also prohibits theft by deception and receiving stolen property. For example, a person who buys a stolen car, knowing that the car has been stolen, could also be convicted of theft. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 164.015.) For more general information on theft, see Oregon Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Like many other states, Oregon classifies thefts based on the value of the stolen property. Theft of more valuable property is punished more severely. (Or. Rev. Stat. § § 164.045, 164.055, 164.057.)
Joyriding, called unauthorized use of a vehicle in Oregon, is committed when a person drives, rides in, or uses someone else’s vehicle without permission, including when a person who is servicing a vehicle, such as a mechanic, uses the vehicle in a way that is not related to the repair. The same law also prohibits retaining someone else’s vehicle when there has been an agreement to return the car at a certain time. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 164.135.) For example, a person who borrows a car from a family member and then keeps it without permission could be charged with joyriding. For more information, see What is the Difference Between Joyriding and Stealing a Car?
In Oregon, it is also a crime to fail to return a rented or leased car within three days of being given a written request to return the car. If there is a contract dispute between the person renting or leasing the car and the owner of the car, that can serve as a defense to any criminal charges. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 164.138.)
Oregon law also prohibits carjacking, which occurs when a defendant uses or threatens physical force to take a car while committing or attempting to commit theft or joyriding. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 164.395.) For example, a car thief or joyrider who threatens to shoot someone in order to force a family out of their car and take the car could be convicted of carjacking.
There are two main defenses to motor vehicle theft. The first possible defense is that the defendant has the owner’s permission or consent to use the vehicle or believed that he or she had the owner’s consent. Note that even if a person occasionally has permission to use a vehicle, the issue is whether the person had permission on the instance in question. The second possible defense is that the defendant did not intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle, but intended to return the property, in which case the crime would be joyriding, not motor vehicle theft.
Theft of property worth $100 or more but less than $1,000 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $6,250, or both. Theft of property worth $1,000 or more is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000. Theft of a commercial vehicle, such as a taxi or big rig truck, worth $10,000 or more is a Class B felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Unauthorized use of a vehicle, failing to return a rental car, and carjacking are also Class C felonies. For more information on sentencing, see Oregon Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Oregon Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
A conviction for any crime, even a misdemeanor, can result in serious consequences, including time in prison or jail, a fine, and a criminal record. If you are accused of or charged with a crime, you should speak to an Oregon criminal defense attorney immediately. Only an experienced local lawyer who understands state law and has handled cases before local judges can give you the advice you need to protect your rights and successfully navigate the criminal justice system.