Auto theft is the act of taking or possessing a vehicle that you do not legally own. While similar to the crime of carjacking, it does not need to be proven that the vehicle was occupied at the time that it was stolen in order to charge you with auto theft.
Under Texas law, you could be charged with auto theft if:
The severity of your theft charges will depend on the value of the property involved. For example, stealing a car that is valued at $20,000 or more will result in much harsher penalties than stealing a car valued at $1,000 or less. If the car was occupied at the time that it was stolen, however, you could be charged with carjacking—which is a much more serious felony offense.
If the car was not occupied, the penalties will be as follows:
If you intentionally or knowingly operate another person's vehicle without their consent, but intend to return it, you could be charged with a crime known as the unauthorized use of a vehicle. This is also commonly referred to as "joyriding." According to Texas Penal Code § 31.07, this offense is charged as a state jail felony, which is punishable by a minimum of 180 days in jail (maximum two years) and/or a $10,000 fine.
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