What to do if my boyfriend has been charged with stealing a car that he only borrowed?

My boyfriend has been arrested for auto theft with priors and taking a without consent. He borrowed the car from a friend who, we now know, was in the process of purchasing the car. When this friend didn’t make his payment on time, the owner went to “repo” the vehicle. When it wasn’t there, he reported it stolen. Is there anything we can do to help get the charges dropped or at least reduced?

Asked on June 7, 2014 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Criminal liability is based on not just a criminal act, but also having a criminal intent (or "mens rea"). For example, it's not theft to pick up  briefcase that looks just like mine, so I got them confused, though it is theft to take someone else's briefcase knowing it was not mine. If the friend will tell the police and prosecutor that he gave your boyrfiend permission to borrow the care and that your boyfriend had no reason to know that he (the friend) did not have the right to the car at that time, that will most likely help--the authorities may reduce the charges, or possibly even drop them, or at least reduce the punishment they seek.


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