What Is The Difference Between Car Theft And Carjacking?

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Recently,  a 21-year-old woman was charged with stealing a car to pick up her boyfriend from jail. Law enforcement has reported that the woman admitted to the car theft and that she was charged with illegal possession of stolen property. The story is an interesting one, as it highlights the fact that there are a number of different types of offenses in Louisiana that deal with car theft. Below, our Monroe criminal defense lawyer explains the differences between them.

Motor Vehicle Theft

Under state law, there are two definitions of motor vehicle theft. These are as follows:

  • Taking someone else’s motor vehicle without the owner’s knowledge or permission, with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, and
  • Controlling a motor vehicle when the defendant knows, or should have known, it was stolen.

A person intends to permanently deprive someone else of their vehicle if they take it and do not intend to return it. For example, someone who breaks into a vehicle sitting in someone’s driveway and sells it for parts meant to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

The penalties a person will face if convicted of motor vehicle theft vary depending on the value of the car. Penalties range between six months and 20 years in prison, and fines ranging from under $1,000 to $50,000.


Carjacking is the most serious type of car theft. Under the law, carjacking occurs when the vehicle is stolen in the owner’s presence. Usually, force or intimidation is used so the perpetrator can gain control of the vehicle. For example, a driver may be sitting in a parked vehicle in the parking lot of a store. A person may open their door, show them a gun, and tell them to get out of the car. The armed individual then enters the vehicle and drives away, carjacking the vehicle. Anyone convicted of carjacking will be sentenced to at least two years in prison and up to 20 years.


Joyriding is also known as the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle because someone takes a car without the owner’s permission. Joyriding is different from theft of a motor vehicle because this offense lacks the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. For example, a teenager may take their parents’ car without their permission. If they are caught, they could then be convicted of joyriding. Even though it is a less serious crime, joyriding is still classified as a felony. Anyone convicted of the crime will face up to two years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.

Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Monroe for a Free Consultation

If you have been charged with any of the above car theft offenses, our Monroe criminal defense lawyer can help you beat the charges. At Whiddon Criminal Defense, our skilled attorney knows how to defend against these crimes to give you the best chance of retaining your freedom. Call us today at 318-594-3592 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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