The Differences Between Vehicle Theft, Carjacking, and Joyriding in Massachusetts

In MA, the act of stealing a vehicle may be classified as motor vehicle theft, carjacking, or joyriding. Vehicle theft is costlier than all other property crimes combined. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a total of 721,053 vehicles were stolen in 2012, accounting for a nationwide loss of $4.3 billion.

Motor vehicle Theft:

You may be charged with motor vehicle theft if you steal a vehicle or any part of a vehicle, if you intentionally damage a vehicle, or if you take control of a vehicle that you know is stolen. If you are facing charges for vehicle theft, it is in your best interest to consult with a Boston vehicle theft lawyer as soon as possible.

If you are convicted of motor vehicle theft, you may find yourself behind bars for up to two-and-a-half years and you may incur up to $15,000 in fines. You will also lose your driver’s license for one year (first conviction) and will likely have to pay restitution to the victim.


In MA, carjacking is also called “assault with the intent to steal a vehicle.” Carjacking typically occurs when a person confines or injures another person for the purpose of stealing a vehicle. However, physical injury is not always necessary. If the victim had a reasonable fear of bodily harm, that’s usually enough to justify a carjacking charge. It also doesn’t matter if the defendant was successful in his or her attempt to steal the vehicle. If the victim manages to get away with the car, the defendant may still be hit with carjacking charges. If a weapon is used, the penalties are generally more severe.

If you are convicted of carjacking, you may be looking at up to two-and-a-half years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines. If, however, you were armed at the time of the incident, you will be facing at least five years in jail and up to 20 years in a state prison. Your best line of defense, if facing charges for carjacking, is to consult with a MA vehicle theft defense lawyer as soon as possible.


Taking a car without the owner’s permission but with the intent to return the vehicle is generally known as joyriding. It is sometimes referred to as “unauthorized use of a vehicle.” As the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his or her vehicle is not present, penalties are usually less serious than those for vehicle theft and carjacking. If you are convicted of joyriding, you will have to pay fines of $50 to $500, and you may spend 30 days to two years in jail.

As with most criminal offenses, prior convictions can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. If you have a clean record and there were no aggravating circumstances, the penalties will likely be less serious than if this is the third time you’ve been caught stealing a car.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top Motor Vehicle Theft Law Firm

If you have been charged with vehicle theft, carjacking, or joyriding, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. It is our goal to keep you out of jail and to keep your record clean. Several defenses exist to fight these charges. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we will analyze the details of your case to determine the most appropriate course of action and will position you for the best possible outcome. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, from OUI to assault and battery, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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