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Rental Car Theft

Virginia’s rental laws are so strict and this crime is so common that it gets its own web page. The attorneys of Nichols & Green have defended hundreds of people accused of criminal charges and they have spent their careers studying the legal issues of Virginia property crimes. For a free consultation with a Virginia criminal defense law about your rental theft charge call Nichols & Green pllc (703) 383-9222.

Rental Car Theft

Va. Code 18.2-117 makes it grand larceny to not return a rental car, boat, plane or animal within five days after the return date on the rental agreement.

“If any person comes into the possession as bailee of any animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, and fail to return the same to the bailor, in accordance with the bailment agreement, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof and receive the same punishment, according to the value of the thing stolen, prescribed for the punishment of the larceny of goods and chattels. The failure to return to the bailor such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, within five days from the time the bailee has agreed in writing to return the same shall be prima facie evidence of larceny by such bailee of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel.”

A bailee is a legal term for someone who rents or leases property. A bailor is the rentor or leasor. It has nothing to do with posting bond or bail.

This law does not require that the prosecution prove any intent to defraud. Instead, if a person is late returning the property then the defendant must prove that they did not have intent to defraud.

These cases most often involve low budget rental car companies. These companies use this law to squeeze late fees and excessive rental fees from defendants.

If a renter refuses to pay the large over-due fees when they return the car late, then the rental company goes to a magistrate and gets a warrant for the driver’s arrests. The police arrest the renter and the rental company uses the courts as a free collection agency.

However, in order for the strict 5 day return deadline to have legal effect, the rental agreement must be clear on the return date. Vague, oral, open-ended, or even amended rental agreements may not be enough to satisfy this requirement.

Additionally, the rental company can only prosecute the person on the rental car agreement. I have seen several cases where the rental company has incorrectly tried to prosecute the guarantor or the spouse of the person who signed the rental agreement.

There are often a lot of defenses and strategies that can be used to avoid conviction for this crime.

The penalties for failure to return a rental car is the same as grand larceny. Grand larceny is a felony and conviction stays on your permanent criminal record forever. Adults cannot have a criminal conviction expunged from their record in Virginia.

If you are convicted of a felony, you lose certain civil rights. Felons cannot vote and cannot own guns in Virginia. Conviction can also affect your ability to get certain jobs, go to graduate school, get security clearance, join the military and may result in deportation.

If you are convicted of grand larceny the judge or jury can sentence you to up to 20 years in prison and fine you up to $2,500. You can also be order to pay restitution to the victim.

Miscellaneous Rental Property Theft

Va. Code 18.2-118 makes it larceny to not return rental property (except cars, planes, boats and animals) within 30 days of the return date on the rental agreement if they have intent to defraud.

The fact that the borrower did not return the property within 30 days after receiving written notice that the rental period has expired can be used as evidence that the defendant has the intent to defraud.

The penalties for this offense are the same as grand larceny. Grand larceny is a felony and conviction stays on your permanent criminal record forever. Adults cannot have a criminal conviction expunged from their record in Virginia.

If you are convicted of a felony, you lose certain civil rights. Felons cannot vote and cannot own guns in Virginia. Conviction can also affect your ability to get certain jobs, go to graduate school, get security clearance, join the military and may result in deportation.

If you are convicted of grand larceny the judge or jury can sentence you to up to 20 years in prison and fine you up to $2,500. You can also be order to pay restitution to the victim.

If you have been accused of larceny involving a rental car or rental theft in Northern Virginia, then call Nichols & Green pllc (703) 383-9222 for a free consultation about your case.

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