Joyriding in Maryland: What Is It and How Could You Be Penalized?

Being behind the wheel of your car with a group of friends can be an exciting and memorable experience. But where is the line between having a good time and breaking the law? In Maryland, there are laws on the books that govern what is commonly known as “joyriding.”

When faced with a joyriding charge, you need experience and skill on your side.  At The Law Office of Hillel Traub, our defense attorney has over 20 years of experience defending such cases. Knowing what joyriding is and the possible penalties you face if charged can alleviate some of the confusion and stress that surrounds this area of the law.

What Is Joyriding in Maryland?

Joyriding is codified in the Criminal Code of Maryland as the unauthorized removal of property. As such, a joyriding charge is similar to theft in that it is taking someone else’s property without permission. So, what exactly is the difference between simply joyriding and outright theft of a vehicle?

The difference lies in the person’s intent: if the person intended to permanently separate the car from the owner, that would be considered felony theft. What the person intended to do after taking the car (i.e., selling it, keeping it, or scrapping it) would all factor into how the court would view the charge, but the fact that the person intended to permanently keep the original owner from their car rises to the level of a felony theft charge.

Conversely, if the person who took the car had the intention of returning it to the owner once they were finished, that would be considered joyriding. In Maryland, the penalties for joyriding include a potential jail sentence between six months to four years, depending on the facts of the case.

Different Joyriding Scenarios

Obviously, given the number of vehicles and population of Maryland, there is ample opportunity for joyriding and theft of vehicles.  And because the line between joyriding and theft lies in the intent, there are a wide range of potential scenarios where joyriding can occur.

Singular Instance

Joyriding may be committed as a singular instance, most commonly by teenagers or children who take their parents’ vehicle without permission. Despite being a singular instance of joyriding, unlicensed or inexperienced drivers who take their parents’ car on a joyride are usually charged with a felony, especially when they drive recklessly at high speed or damage other vehicles.


A vast majority of joyriding scenarios also involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Obviously,  these actions are dangerous enough at any time, but factoring in the high speeds or recklessness common in joyriding situations makes this much more dangerous. Poor judgment, lack of reflexes, and swerving and speeding may lead to crashes and multiple injuries.

Combining Violations

Whenever there is a joyriding scenario, the joyriding charge may very well be the least serious.  Most likely, reckless driving, failing to obey traffic signals, speeding, DUI/DWI, or theft will all be tacked on to a joyriding charge. The more egregious the conduct, the harsher the potential penalties.

How to Defend Against Joyriding Charges in Maryland

Given the nature of how joyriding charges are assessed, there are several ways to defend against such a charge. One of the most common defenses revolves around consent. Being able to show that the owner of the vehicle consented to its use means that no joyriding was committed. However, if joyriding is involved, consent will be difficult to prove.  Other common defenses include:

  • Claiming a misunderstanding
  • Questioning the ownership of the vehicle
  • Violation of Constitutional rights

Again, defending against a joyriding charge is highly dependent on the experience and knowledge of your attorney.  That’s why it’s in your best interest to contact a Maryland joyriding attorney as soon as possible to get a handle on your case.

Contact an Experienced Maryland Joyriding Attorney

A joyriding conviction could result in severe legal penalties. With over 20 years of experience, The Law Office of Hillel Traub have built their practice by defending all types of criminal offenses throughout Baltimore and the State of Maryland. Having previously worked for the Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Motor Vehicle association, Attorney Hillel Traub has extensive contacts and knowledge regarding traffic offenses and how they are handled. To schedule a free initial consultation, complete our contact form or call our office at (410) 850-1100.