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Taking a Motor Vehicle Without Consent

“I borrowed my friend’s car, now I could go to jail?!”

To put it simply the answer to this question is yes, you can be charged with a serious criminal offence if you take a motor vehicle without permission from the owner. However, there are several factors defined in this area of the Criminal Code that could mean the difference between a likely fine without jail time, or possibly years behind bars…

Taking a motor vehicle without consent is classed under section 335(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada under offences resembling theft. Although taking a motor vehicle without consent is not technically classified as property theft or grand theft auto, it still carries major penalties and a criminal record for those found guilty. In Ontario there are several forms or auto theft and offences resembling auto theft, all with varying penalties and prerequisite defining factors.

Motor Theft / “Grand Theft Auto”

This occurs when a person steals a motor vehicle with the intention of never returning it to the rightful owner. Much more serious than a “joyriding” charge, motor theft carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail if pursued by summary conviction. If this is the offender’s third or subsequent offence, a minimum jail sentence of 6 months will be imposed in almost all cases.

Trafficking Stolen Motor Vehicles

Trafficking stolen motor vehicles is seen as a very serious offence in Canada as it often involves activities associated with organized crime. If you are found to be attempting to sell, buy, or import/export stolen vehicles, you will be charged under section 355(5) of the Criminal Code of Canada. The Code states that any person found trafficking property with a value no less than $5,000 is guilty of an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. If the value of the goods is less than $5,000, the maximum penalty is lowered to 5 years jail time.

Possession of a Stolen Vehicle

A person can be charged with possession of a stolen vehicle even if they were not the individual who stole it. Police often will check if the serial number has been intentionally removed from their vehicle, if the vehicle in question was reported stolen, and or if the driver can provide any proof of ownership when making an arrest. Again, the severity of the penalty depends on the value of the vehicle stolen, as any property under $5,000 results in a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and 6 months imprisonment. If the value of the vehicle was over $5,000, the penalty increases to a maximum of 2 years imprisonment with summary conviction, or a possible 10-year sentence on an indictable offence.

Taking Motor Vehicle Without Consent

A person can be charged with taking a motor vehicle without consent if they take a vehicle without the owner’s knowledge, with intentions of returning it. This includes the child who takes their parents’ mini van to the movies, or the relative who takes your new car for an unplanned spin at a family function. In addition, anyone who was riding in the vehicle with the driver may be liable for the same charge, although the court will have to prove they had prior knowledge regarding the vehicle’s ownership status. The maximum penalty for this offence in Ontario is 6 months jail time and/or a $5,000 fine.

As you can see, taking a motor vehicle without consent is a serious criminal charge in Ontario, and can have a significant impact on your life if you are found guilty. In many of these cases it is possible to prove that there was some form of implied consent or colour of right present between the accused and the owner when the vehicle was taken. This is where the knowledge and expertise of an experienced criminal defence lawyer will help you in making the vital decisions needed to prove your innocence. The lawyers at Aitken Robertson have been successfully defending those charged with theft-related offences for decades in the Peterborough area. Give us a call at 1-800-668-1657 for a free 30-minute consultation regarding your case and find out how we can help you fight the charges.

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