Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Driving or Taking a Vehicle Without Consent

Receiving a citation for a Vehicle Code 10851 violation can often be a little confusing. What is it, and how did it end up being cited to you? Below, we’ll go over some of the most important details, including:

What is Vehicle Code 10851 VC?

The best place to start with understanding this particular traffic violation is by taking a look at the California legislation for it. This reads: “any person who drives or takes a vehicle not his or her own, without the consent of the owner thereof, and with intent either to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner thereof of his or her title to or possession of the vehicle, whether with or without intent to steal the vehicle, or any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, is guilty of a public offense”

As with a lot of the legislation, this can be a little unnecessarily complicated, so let’s take it apart. In simpler terms, this tells you that driving or taking a car (or being involved as a passenger) that does not belong to you, even if you don’t mean to steal it permanently is illegal without the consent of the legal owner of the vehicle. A more common term for this particular violation is “joyriding”.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 10851 VC?

As stated above, this violation means that you’ve taken someone else’s car permanently or temporarily without their consent. There are a few forms that a Vehicle Code 10851 VC can take, however, so let’s put our imaginary driver, Lydia, into the situation and try them all out for a better understanding.

In the first situation, Lydia is taking care of her friend’s cat while they are away and she decides that she wants to try out her friend’s car as part of her payment for cat-sitting. Lydia finds the spare keys and takes the car for a spin around the block. In this case, her friend has not given her consent to drive her car, so Lydia has committed a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation.

In the next situation, Lydia wants to go out with her friends to the mall, but she doesn’t have her own car or a way to get there. Without asking her mom or dad, she grabs the keys and takes off with their car to enjoy her outing. Because it is her parents’ car, and she doesn’t have their permission, she’s guilty of a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation.

Finally, let’s say that Lydia is running late for work and her car won’t start. Her neighbor isn’t home when she calls and goes over to ask if they can drive her, but their car is in the driveway. Being mechanically inclined, Lydia hotwires the car quickly and takes off. Not only does she not have consent, but she also doesn’t even have the keys. In this case, this would also be a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation (along with a few others, but that’s beside the point in our situation).

This is pretty simple to understand: don’t take someone else’s car without their explicit permission, right? The thing is, how many teens have taken their car without permission…they don’t all end up with a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation on their driving records, right? They could, technically, but just like this citation has a few forms, it also has some exceptions.

Most of the exceptions come from the reality that a court has to be able to prove three facets: The first one is that the legal owner of the vehicle did consent to the driving or taking of the vehicle. The second one is that the person who took the vehicle has a legal claim to that vehicle. Thirdly, the person cited was acting under the duress of someone else.

Confused? Exactly. The exceptions can let a lot of those “on the edge” people right off the hook of the citation when it reaches the court. For instance, if Lydia’s friend had said that she can use the car while she’s cat-sitting, Lydia isn’t guilty of a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation. Because consent was given, even verbally, the legal owner of the vehicle would have no grounds for the citation.

In the second situation where Lydia goes out to the mall with her friends using her parents’ car, she could technically argue that since she lives and drives her parents’ car regularly, she would have some rights to use the car. This one tends to wobble on the line when it comes to proving what a right is for, or not, so many courts will grant it as an exception — especially involving young drivers and parents! That’s not to mention the fact that most parents will just settle it without putting forward a formal citation in the first place.

Thirdly, let’s say that Lydia only hotwired her neighbor’s car because there was a home invasion either at her own home or at her neighbor’s home when she went to go ask for a ride. The invader forces Lydia to hotwire the car and drive them to freedom. Because she is not acting under her own will, and fears for her safety, she wouldn’t be guilty of a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation.

What can I do about this violation?

If you receive this citation in the mail, it can either be convicted as a misdemeanor or as a felony. The court will often determine this based on the situation surrounding the Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation, and the driver’s existing record.

If it’s classified as a misdemeanor, you can spend up to one year in county jail and/or be fined up to $5, 000. Sometimes probation is used instead of jail time, or you can choose to pay a higher fine to avoid jail time.

If the court decides to charge it as a felony, however, you can expect to spend anywhere from 1.5-3 years in prison and be fined up to $10, 000. If the vehicle that you stole was an emergency vehicle, this is even more so.

If you are guilty of this offense, your best choice is to plead guilty when given the chance and accept the punishment as given. There are quite a few exceptions and “on the edge” arguments that can be made when getting a citation for joyriding, though. If you are innocent of this charge or believe that you could qualify for the exceptions to it, you are entitled to prove your case with the help of legal counsel.

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

There are several codes that can be added to your Vehicle Code 10851 VC citation, but most of them are penal code violations, which are a different matter entirely from traffic citations. However, there are two traffic citations that are commonly attached to this ticket:

  • Vehicle Code 10852 VC: This refers to tampering with a car or its contents that doesn’t belong to you without the owner’s consent.
  • Vehicle Code 10853 VC: This is used if you damage the vehicle that you are taking without the owner’s consent.

Either one or both, of these, can be added to a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation when you appear in court. Both the peace officer as well as the court will decide whether these can be legally added, or even used in place of the Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation. This often is determined based on your record and the situation surrounding the citation in the first place.

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

No, this ticket is not eligible for traffic school. Many people think that a Vehicle Code 10851 VC makes them eligible for traffic school in order to mask the ticket on their driving record. After all, joyriding means you’ve officially moved the vehicle, right? However, a moving citation is for when you are caught in the act of moving a vehicle, rather than the actual moving of the vehicle itself. Going to an accredited traffic school, such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL, wouldn’t do anything to help with your driving skills or technique with a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation, so eligibility doesn’t apply!

Confused or need more information on this? We’re happy to help. Please contact us and we’ll be happy to explain the situation for you to help clear it all up — this one is confusing to many! Alternatively, you can contact the court who issued your ticket, too, as they tend to be more up-to-date on your specific case!

How can I avoid a citation for a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation?

This is a pretty intimidating citation, to be sure, especially for young drivers that are dealing with borrowing cars that belong to other people. To help you stay safe, here are some tips to give you some support in avoiding a Vehicle Code 10851 VC citation.

Firstly, you’ll never just want to hop behind the wheel of your brother or roommate or parent’s car without asking. Sure. there’s a chance that they’ll say no or hold it over your head, but receiving a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation is going to be a whole lot worse! Always ask permission and make sure that they grant it before you grab those keys. If possible, especially if they aren’t going to be present when you take the car (ie: parents are at work or away on a trip), get that consent in writing with signatures to verify it in case you are ever cited after the fact.

Secondly, remember that being anywhere near this kind of behavior can earn your a citation even if you were just a passenger. It’s best to never get in a car with other people if the owner of the car isn’t present. Sure, it may make you a “party pooper”, but, again, the ticket that could receive will always be worse! Remember: If you didn’t knowingly participate in taking someone else’s car without their permission, or you have a legal right to it, then a Vehicle Code 10851 VC violation wouldn’t apply!



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