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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-72.2: Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance The crime of unauthorized use of a motor-propelled conveyance (boats, airplanes, motor vehicles, etc.) under North Carolina Criminal Law 14-72.2 is when the accused uses another person’s motorized conveyance without permission or implied consent.

Depending on the type of conveyance, it can be a felony or misdemeanor charge. Unauthorized use of a an Aircraft is a Class H Felony offense in North Carolina.

Unauthorized use of a conveyance, which includes motor vehicles, differs from larceny of a motor vehicle in that the defendant (the person who allegedly takes the conveyance) did not have the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

Unauthorized Use is not a larceny charge. Larceny in North Carolina is characterized by both taking the item and the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property. There is not intent to “steal” in an Unauthorized Use charge.

As such, it is deemed a specific intent crime, necessitating proof of mens rea or the “evil mind” to commit the offense. To prove a defendant committed the crime of unauthorized use of a conveyance, the prosecutor must prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:

  1. The Defendant used a motor-propelled conveyance
  2. The motor-propelled conveyance belonged to another person
  3. The Defendant did not have the permission or the implied consent of the owner to use the conveyance
What is a Conveyance?

A conveyance includes aircrafts, cars, boats, and other motor propelled vehicles. The type of “conveyance” is what elevates this offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Only the Unauthorized Use of an Aircraft is a felony charge in North Carolina, allegedly using all other types conveyances without permission is a misdemeanor charge pursuant to N.C.G.S. 14-72.2(b)

The Common Law Doctrine of Recent Possession may apply to the offense, see State v. Frazier, 269 N.C. 249 (1996). There may be an assumption the defendant took the conveyance (motor vehicle) if found in possession of the conveyance.

2. Examples of Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance

Defendant’s neighbor purchased a new car. The Defendant takes the car out for a joyride throughout Mecklenburg County, taking pictures of himself at different landmarks in Charlotte and posting them on social media. He does so as a joke, thinking it would be funny. He did not have his neighbor’s consent. The Defendant may be charged with Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance, a Class I Misdemeanor offense.

The Defendant occasionally borrows his cousin’s boat to go fishing on Lake Norman in Huntersville. Defendant’s cousin previously told the Defendant, “Sure, you can use my boat. It’s always there for you. Just let me know when you use it and make sure to fill it up with gas.” The cousin gets angry when he finds out his boat was used for tubing instead of fishing. The alleged victim is also upset the Defendant left the fuel tank empty. The Defendant may have valid defenses to the offense, as the alleged “victim” appears to have given implied consent to use the boat (conveyance).

The Defendant flies as a commercial pilot for Carolina Aviation and Dog Transport (CADT). He is responsible for flying expensive dogs around North Carolina and South Carolina to compete in “best in show” competitions. The Defendant is required to “stay current” as part of his job responsibilities and must fly rain-or-shine in “instrument conditions.” For more than 6 months, while waiting for the dog shows to end, the Defendant regularly flies to local airports in Iredell County, Gastonia, and the Monroe Airport to practice instrument approaches and stay current. Upon departing Charlotte-Douglas airport, Defendant flies to Rowan County Airport and delivers two pedigreed dogs for the Salisbury Top Breeders Competition. As is his practice, after dropping the dogs off, he departs Salisbury and flies to Hickory and Asheville, never landing but doing practice approaches. The owner of CADT discovers the practice and has the Defendant arrested for Felony Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance, a Class H Felony offense (because the conveyance is an aircraft). Defendant may argue he had the implied consent of the aircraft owner and that use of the aircraft was indeed authorized.

3. Related Offenses

Other related crimes offenses include:

  1. Felonious Larceny - Goods Worth More Than $1,000
  2. Breaking or Entering Into a Motor Vehicle
  3. Misdemeanor Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest
  4. Misdemeanor Breaking or Entering
  5. NC Criminal Law – Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance
4. Defenses to Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance

Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance A Defendant may defend against the crime of Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance with Common Law defenses to Specific Intent Crimes. Consent and permission by the owner, express or implied, may serve as a valid defense to criminal charges.

5. Penalties

Under North Carolina Criminal Law 14-72.2, Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance can be a Misdemeanor or Felony Offense depending on the type of conveyance.

The unauthorized use of an aircraft is a Class H felony, carrying up to a maximum of 25 months of incarceration.

The unauthorized use of any other motor-propelled vehicle is a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense, allowing for a maximum period of up to 120 days in jail.

6. Lawyers Who Handle Unauthorized Use of a Conveyance Charges

Our team of Charlotte criminal defense lawyers is dedicated helping clients during times of need.

Unauthorized Conveyance cases are (relatively) infrequently prosecuted in Mecklenburg County and the surrounding judicial districts in Monroe NC, Statesville /Mooresville in Iredell County, and Gaston County.

"We tend to see larceny of motor vehicle charges instead of indictments of unauthorized use. As a specific intent crime, the fact pattern can be key to the defense."

- Bill Powers

If you have questions about criminal charges in Mecklenburg County, Monroe, Gastonia, and/or Salisbury, Powers Law Firm PA offers a free consultation.

Call 704-342-4357 NOW to speak with Defense Attorney Bill Powers.

You can also email Bill directly at: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

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