Experienced Defense of UUMV Charges
If you’re accused of UUMV (unauthorized use of a motor vehicle) in Fort Worth or another city in Tarrant County, contact our criminal defense firm to schedule a cost-free consultation to begin working through the plan for your defense.
The two partners at Cofer Luster Law Firm, PC, are both former prosecutors. Cody Cofer is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (certified in 2013, recertified in 2018). Also, Mr. Cofer served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Texas. James Luster was an Assistant Criminal District Attorney in Tarrant County and Lubbock County. Both lawyers have over 10 years of criminal trial experience, and are in the Tarrant County criminal courthouse almost every working day.
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Can I Do Jail Time for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle?
The unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a charge that indicates a person has knowingly committed an offense by operating someone else’s boat, aircraft, or automobile without obtaining the owner’s consent. A crime of this type is considered a felony in the state of Texas.
As outlined by Texas Penal Code §31.07, to be able to convict someone of the unauthorized use of a vehicle, the district attorney has the burden of proving that an individual willfully used another person’s car, watercraft, aircraft, or other engine-powered vehicle without first gaining permission to do so. A charge of Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle is a Texas State Jail Felony and carries the possible penalties of: imprisonment in a State Jail Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for anywhere between 180 days and two years; and a fine that can be as much as $10,000.
Unauthorized Vehicle Usage vs. Theft
Even though the offense is listed in the “theft” portion of the Texas Penal Code, the prosecuting attorney doesn’t have to prove the estimated value of a stolen or misused vehicle in court. This can be confusing, because you may be familiar with the term “Grand Theft Auto” from television or video games. The prosecutor only has to prove that a “motor-propelled vehicle” was operated “without the effective consent of the owner.” Value of the vehicle is not an element of the offense.
There is also no necessity that the prosecutor demonstrate that the accused even committed any theft, only that they operated the motorized vehicle without first gaining the owner’s consent. A lot of people envision kids taking “joy rides” whenever they hear of unauthorized vehicle usage. But many of these cases arise when a person borrows a car from someone, and then there is a disagreement about when the car should be returned. Regardless, it is not necessary for the prosecutor to prove that when someone originally took the vehicle that they didn’t have permission. The prosecutor just has to prove that a person continued to operate the vehicle once “effective consent” was denied (e.g. someone calls and says to bring the car back).
Another difference between UUMVs and thefts is that the former is a state jail felony with a punishment of up to two years in a state prison. Based on the vehicle’s value, a theft has a much more broad range of penalties that can go all the way up to a third-degree felony, which may include up to 10 years in a Texas prison. The more valuable the vehicle, the more likely it is that the prosecutor will claim a charge of theft in order to inflict a more severe punishment on the offender. It is up to the prosecutor as to whether the case will be filed as Theft or Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle.
Proving Unauthorized Use Of A Motor Vehicle in Court
One common issue is whether the entering of another person’s vehicle and a short stay inside of it adds up to “use” as far as exercising control or dominion over the car. In some cases, your defense attorney may offer evidence to prove that you did not start the vehicle’s engine during their brief entry, which is easier if there’s no evidence that they possessed an ignition bypass tools or tried to hotwire the car.
The time spent by the defendant in the vehicle must have been temporary and should not — aside from their unsanctioned entry — have prevented the owner from using it, not even for a second. Any damages to the vehicle and the discovery of tools that might have been used by the defendant for different reasons, including prying open the door or stripping out the stereo, are considered to be separate crimes.
Using a Vehicle Without Permission is a Major Crime in Fort Worth, Texas
Being convicted of the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a big deal, as it is currently categorized as a felony charge in the state of Texas and can often be won by the prosecution in court. For that reason, it’s a good idea to employ a successful criminal defense team that understands all court procedures in Fort Worth and will go the extra mile to defend your freedom.