I was in the Magistrate’s Office in Pittsburgh yesterday waiting for a Criminal Preliminary Hearing when I started discussing an interesting new set of criminal charges:  being charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle because you are driving a rental car that you did not rent.  In other words, a friend rents a vehicle and lets you use it to run down to the store.  On your way, you are pulled over by a police officer.  The officer checks the rental contract and discovers that you are not the one on the contract.  You are then charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, a misdemeanor that carries jail time.

Unauthorized Use is a vehicle crime in Pennsylvania.  Generally speaking, you may be charged with the crime of Unauthorized Use if you operate an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle without the consent of the owner.  If you are found guilty of Unauthorized Use, you will be sentenced to a Misdemeanor in the Second Degree that carries jail time up to 2 years and a $5,000.00 fine.

The police are arguing that the rental company is the owner and the renter does not have the authority to let anyone else drive the vehicle.  However, when push comes to shove, the police are not getting away with this in court.  The Magistrates appear to be letting the cases get by, but if you take the right path,  Judges at a higher level seem to be willing to dismiss the cases completely.  That is because there are a number of defenses to the crime of Unauthorized Use in this type of case.

A criminal case like this is perfect for illustrating why you need to contact a Criminal Defense Attorney right away.  If you have been charged with Unauthorized Use, you need an attorney at your Preliminary Hearing in order to secure your rights down the road.  Also, a good Criminal Defense Attorney will do some research before the Preliminary Hearing to look for contracts, the true owners, consent, probable cause, etc.

If you or someone you know has been charged with Unauthorized Use, give my office a call at 412-209-0657.  Don’t wait until it is too late for me to help.  It could mean the difference between Case Dismissed and jail time.