Theft of a Motor Vehicle

Theft of a Motor Vehicle, Taking Without Consent, TWOC, Unauthorised Taking of a Motor Vehicle, UTMV, Taking and Driving Away, TDA

Theft of a motor vehicle is referred to by a variety of different terms across the country. However, a TDA in London is the same as a UTMV in Liverpool or a TWOC in Manchester. The offence of theft of a motor vehicle is created by Section 12 of the Theft Act 1968.

If you are accused of the theft of a motor vehicle, the Prosecution must prove that:

  • You have taken a vehicle belonging to someone else, and
  • You did not have the consent of the owner to take that vehicle, or
  • You did not have any other lawful authority to take the vehicle

Unusually, there is no intention to permanently deprive the owner of their property, unlike with theft offences.

There is a specific defence in s.12(6) of the Theft Act, which states that a person is not guilty if they took a vehicle believing that the owner of the car would have granted consent knowing the circumstances. Therefore if someone borrows a friend’s car without asking for permission, but believed that their friend would have given them permission, they may have a defence in law.

The theft of a motor vehicle is a summary only offence. This means that it can only be dealt with by the Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence available to the Court is 6 months imprisonment, but the majority of cases are dealt with by Community Orders.

The Court also has the power to disqualify the offender from driving, though it is not legally possible to impose penalty points on the driver’s licence. For information on these issues, please see our Motoring Law section.

Allowing to be Carried

There is a further offence related to the theft of a motor vehicle, under the same section of the Theft Act relating to being carried in a stolen vehicle.

If you are accused of allowing yourself to be carried in a stolen vehicle, the Prosecution must prove that:

  • You knew that the vehicle had been taken without the owner’s consent,
  • You allowed yourself to become a passenger, or to continue as a passenger, knowing that the vehicle was taken without consent.

This means that if you get into a vehicle in good faith, but during the journey you become aware that the vehicle has been stolen, you commit the offence if you do not attempt to leave the vehicle. Commonly though, a passenger only becomes aware of the theft when the driver of the stolen car begins to drive in a dangerous manner, often when the police begin to pursue. In those circumstances, it is hard to see how the passenger could safely try to leave the vehicle.

The sentencing powers for being carried in a stolen vehicle are the same as those described above for theft of a motor vehicle.

If you have been accused of the theft of a motor vehicle, it is important that you have expert advice from a specialist criminal defence lawyer. Contact us to see if we can help you find an experienced solicitor or barrister for your case.