Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 24(2)(a) punishes people who use a motor vehicle without authority knowing that doing so is unauthorized. An important element to this offense is knowledge—a person must know that they are using the vehicle without authority.
What does it mean to use a vehicle without authority?
Firstly, under Massachusetts’s law, it is illegal to use a motor vehicle without authority.
Massachusetts law states:
“…whoever uses a motor vehicle without authority knowing that such use is unauthorized…[shall be punished].”
In other words, it is illegal to knowingly using a motor vehicle without the required authority.
What does the government need to prove to send a person to jail for using a vehicle without authority?
In order to prove a defendant guilty of the crime of using a vehicle without authority, the Commonwealth must prove the following three elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant used a motor vehicle
- That at the time he or she used that motor vehicle, he or she did so without the permission of the owner
- That at the time he or she used the motor vehicle, the defendant knew
What does it legally mean to use a vehicle?
A person “uses” a motor vehicle within the meaning of the law if he or she rides in it, either as the driver or as a passenger. It is not necessary that the defendant personally drove or controlled the vehicle, only that he or she rode in it while it moved.
How does the government prove there was no authorization?
The Commonwealth may prove that the defendant was NOT authorized to use the vehicle either by testimony from the owner or other person in charge of the vehicle, or through inferences that you are reasonably able to draw from all the circumstances.
What if I did not know I was not authorized to use a vehicle.
The defendant must have known that his or her use of the motor vehicle was unauthorized to be convicted. If it had been proved that the defendant was a passenger in the vehicle, that fact alone does NOT establish that he or she knew that he or she was not authorized to use it.
In addition, jurors must consider all of the relevant circumstances of the case in question. If the defendant did NOT know that his or her use was unauthorized, they must find him or her NOT GUILTY.
If you are present in an unauthorized vehicle, does that make you guilty?
NO, mere presence is not enough to support an inference of guilty knowledge.
Who can give authorization to use a vehicle?
The owner or one who in law possesses the right of control may grant authorization.
Also note that the owner or controller’s testimony is NOT always essential. One can infer lack of authority from circumstantial evidence.
Does use of a motor vehicle include use as a passenger?
NO, the statutory term “use” does NOT include use as a passenger. However, “use” requires some movement of the vehicle. Merely sitting on the passenger side of a stationary motor vehicle in a parking lot is insufficient.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH USE OF A VEHICLE WITHOUT AUTHORITY, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.