Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Use of a Vehicle Without Authority

Jamil Campbell failed to stop at a stop sign in Boston, and he ended up being arrested for not being authorized to use a rental car, along with other charges. The rental car was impounded by police. Using a vehicle without authority is considered illegal in the Commonwealth. There is a gray area in this particular case because Campbell claims his mother gave him authority to use the vehicle and the rented car was officially in her name and not his. This case raises questions regarding who may grant authority to use a rental car, driving a rental car without permission, and the appropriate steps an arresting officer can take in this situation.

Use of a vehicle without authority in the Commonwealth is addressed under Massachusetts Law Chapter 90 Section 24. The law concludes that if you use a motor vehicle without the permission or authorization from its owner, you have committed a crime and you can be charged with use of a vehicle without authority. If you have been charged with such a crime, you should contact a reliable criminal defense attorney because this law can be complex and ambiguous. Your attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed. He or she can explain the key factors or elements that must be proven by the prosecution. According to Massachusetts Court 5.660 Instruction regarding the use of a vehicle without authority, the following elements must be proven in your case:

"The defendant is charged with knowingly using a motor vehicle

without authority.  Section 24(2)(a) of chapter 90 of our General Laws

provides that “. . . whoever uses a motor vehicle without authority knowing

that such use is unauthorized . . .” shall be punished.

In order to prove the defendant guilty of this offense, the

Commonwealth must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:

First:  That the defendant used a motor vehicle;

Second:  That at the time he (she) used that motor vehicle, he (she)

did so without the permission of the owner, or the permission of some

other person who possessed the legal right of control ordinarily exercised

by the owner; and

Third:  That at the time he (she) used the motor vehicle, the defendant

knew that he (she) was not authorized to use that vehicle.

A person “uses” a motor vehicle within the meaning of the law if he

rides in it, either as the driver or as a passenger. It is not necessary that the

defendant personally drove or controlled the vehicle, only that he (she)

rode in it while it moved. The Commonwealth may prove that the defendant was not authorized

to use the vehicle either by testimony from the owner or other person in

charge of the vehicle, or through inferences that you are reasonably able to

draw from all the circumstances.

Finally, the defendant must have known that his (her) use of the motor

vehicle was unauthorized.  If it has been proved that the defendant was a

passenger in the vehicle, that fact alone does not establish that he (she)

knew that he (she) was not authorized to use it.  You should consider all of

the circumstances, and any reasonable inferences which you can draw

from the evidence, in determining whether the defendant had actual

knowledge that his (her) use of the vehicle was unauthorized. If the

defendant did not know that his (her) use was unauthorized, you must find

him (her) not guilty. "

In Massachusetts, the punishment for the use of a vehicle without authority can have stiff consequences. When found guilty of a first offense, a person can serve a minimum of 30 days and up to two years in jail. He may have to pay fines up to $500. The consequences may be even harsher for second or third offenses.

If you have been charged with using a vehicle without authority and feel you have been wrongfully accused, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately. The consequences can be devastating and may include jail or hefty fines, maybe both. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case.  Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.