Auto Theft Laws in Oregon

Like many states, a conviction for motor vehicle theft or a related crime in Oregon can result in prison time and substantial fines.

By , Attorney

Oregon law criminalizes motor vehicle theft, joyriding, failure to return a rental car, and carjacking. Learn more about these crimes and their penalties.

Oregon Motor Vehicle Theft

Most crimes involving auto theft are charged under Oregon's general theft statutes.

Crime of Vehicle Theft

Oregon theft laws prohibit taking property that does not belong to you, without the owner's consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of their property. An offender who takes another's motor vehicle without intending to return it commits motor vehicle theft. Oregon law also prohibits theft by deception and receiving stolen property. For example, a person who buys a car knowing it's been stolen could also be convicted of theft. Failing to return a rental car within three days of being given a written request to do so is another type of motor vehicle theft.

Penalties for Vehicle Theft

Oregon law classifies theft penalties according to the value and nature of the stolen property. The more valuable the motor vehicle is, the more severe the punishment will be. A prosecutor may rely on the fair market value of the property or its replacement value.

Penalties for motor vehicle thefts range from class A misdemeanors to class B felonies. Stealing a vehicle worth $100 or more but less than $1,000 is a class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a $6,250 fine. If the stolen auto has a value of $1,000 or more, the offender is guilty of a class C felony and faces up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine. Failing to return a rental car also falls within this level of punishment. Theft of a commercial vehicle, such as a taxi or big rig truck, worth $10,000 or more is a class B felony, which subjects the defendant to up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.605, -.615, -.625, -.635; 164.015, -.045, -.055, -.057 (2020).)

Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (Joyriding)

Unauthorized use of a vehicle—more commonly known as joyriding—occurs when a person drives, rides in, or uses another's vehicle without permission. This crime includes the group of kids who take a running vehicle for a spin, as well as someone servicing a vehicle, such as a mechanic, who uses the vehicle in a way that is not related to the repair (say driving it to the store over the lunch hour).

The same law also prohibits retaining another's vehicle when there has been an agreement to return the car at a certain time or when the authorized user operates the vehicle in a manner constituting a gross deviation from the agreed-upon purpose. For example, a person who borrows a car from a family member and then keeps it without permission can be charged with joyriding.

A person who commits joyriding and any willing passenger in the vehicle are guilty of a class C felony. Such offenders face up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.605, -.625; 164.135 (2020).)

Carjacking (Robbery)

Oregon law charges carjacking under its robbery laws.

Third-degree robbery. A person commits robbery in the third degree if, in the course of committing or attempting to commit theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle, the person uses or threatens to use physical force on another person to prevent or overcome resistance to the carjacking or force the owner to help with the commission of the crime. Robbery in the third degree constitutes a class C felony, which carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

Second-degree robbery. If the offender claims to be armed with a dangerous weapon or is aided by another person, they can face charges of robbery in the second degree. The punishment for second-degree robbery, a class B felony, includes up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

First-degree robbery. A defendant who is armed with a deadly weapon, uses or attempts to use a dangerous weapon, or tries to cause serious physical injury to any person during the theft is guilty of a robbery in the first degree. Robbery in the first degree is a class A felony and subjects the offender to up to 20 years in prison and a $375,000 fine.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.605, -.625; 164.395, -.405, -.415 (2020).)

Defenses

Two main defenses to motor vehicle theft exist. The first involves consent. If the defendant had or reasonably believed to have the owner's permission to operate the vehicle, an unauthorized using or taking did not occur—meaning no crime occurred. The second possible defense concerns intent. If the defendant didn't intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle but rather intended to return the property, the defendant committed joyriding, not theft.

Obtaining Legal Assistance

A conviction for any crime, even a misdemeanor, can result in serious consequences, including incarceration, fines, and a criminal record. If you are accused of or charged with a crime, contact an Oregon criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced local lawyer who understands your state's laws 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.

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