Q. I let my friend borrow my car just to go to the store. Now they won’t talk to me and my car has been gone for almost a month. Can I report it stolen? How much trouble would they be in?
A. This is an unfortunate situation and definitely comes up from time to time. Theft by unlawful taking is defined as the taking or exercising control over movable property of another with the intent to deprive him or her thereof or if he or she transfers immovable property of another with the intent to benefit him or herself or another not entitled thereto.
From a reporting standpoint, the time frame is going to be critical in determining the classification. If you let your friend borrow your car to go to the store and they haven’t returned in 30 minutes, a reasonable person probably wouldn’t consider that to be theft at that point. Now, if your friend hasn’t returned the vehicle in a month and you haven’t had any correspondence giving them permission to extend the use of the vehicle, that’s a different story. I would venture to say a reasonable person would consider that an intention to deprive someone of their property. So yes, you could report it stolen.
This statute also applies to leased or rented movable property (to include vehicles). Failure to return said vehicle after the expiration of a written lease or rental agreement would be considered intent to deprive the owner. There is an additional process in this situation where a written demand would be issued (by the owner) specifying the time and place for the return of the vehicle. If the person who rented or leased the vehicle fails to return it within 72 hours of the written demand, that person would be considered guilty of theft.
Classifications vary depending on the dollar amount. Theft constitutes a Class IIA felony when the value of the item is $5,000 or more, Class IV felony when the value is $1,500.00-$4,999, Class I misdemeanor when the value is $500.00-$1,499, and a Class I misdemeanor when the value is less than $500. Subsequent conviction penalties do apply in terms of sentencing.
There is another statute which covers the unauthorized use of a propelled vehicle. That statute states a person commits the offense of unauthorized use of a propelled vehicle if he or she intentionally exerts unauthorized control over another’s propelled vehicle by operating it without the owner’s consent. A propelled vehicle is further defined as an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor-propelled vehicle.
The first offense for unauthorized use is a Class III misdemeanor, second offense is a Class I, and third or subsequent offenses are a Class IV felony.
Each week, Sgt. Krisa Brass will answer questions submitted by Star-Herald readers. Send questions for consideration to email@example.com or by leaving your question at 308-632-9057.
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