What is the difference if any, between stolen vehicle charges and unauthorized use of a vehicle?

Asked on June 12, 2012 under Criminal Law, Iowa


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

These are very similar charges and are often charged at the same time in jurisdictions that have both offenses as part of their penal code.  A stolen vehicle charge falls under Iowa's general theft statute.  Theft is when a person intends to deprive the owner of the permanent use of the vehicle or if they are in possession of property they know is stolen and have no intent of returning the property.  Either application usually begins with a defendant taking something they don't have a right to have.  Unauthorized use, on the other had, doesn't necessarily begin with an illegal act.  A victim can loan their vehicle to a roommate to go to the grocery store--- so they have authorized some use.  If the roomrate decides to take a roadtrip to another state-- the use beyond the original consent of the owner is unauthorized.  A defendant can be charged with unauthorized use even if the defendant wholly intended to return (or did return) the vehicle at the completion of the roadtrip.  The main difference between the two is the intent of the offender.

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