Legal question: occupying a vehicle without the owner's consent

Consider the following hypothetical scenario: Victor parks his vehicle in some public place and leaves it temporarily. During his absence, Ignatz notices the vehicle is unlocked and enters it. When Victor returns, Ignatz refuses to leave the vehicle, but does not prevent Victor from driving or otherwise moving it with Ignatz still in it.

My questions (and my own personal speculations) are as follows:

[li] Has Ignatz committed any crime?[/li]I don’t think he has committed theft, since he has not taken the vehicle away and is not preventing Victor from doing so. I don’t think he’s committed vandalism or malicious mischief, since he hasn’t damaged or destroyed the vehicle.

[li] Has Ignatz committed any civil wrong?[/li]I figure that, at least in common law jurisdictions, he has probably committed something like trespass to chattels here, since by occupying the vehicle, Ignatz is interfering with Victor’s full rightful enjoyment of it.

[li] If there is no crime, is the only legal way Victor can force Ignatz to leave the vehicle to sue him in court and get an injunction?[/li]If so, who would be responsible for enforcing the injunction? That is, would the court order allow Victor to personally eject Ignatz from the vehicle? Or would Victor need to get a bailiff to do so on his behalf?
I realize that answers will vary depending on the jurisdiction, so please let me know which jurisdiction your answer applies to.

Washington State. Not a necessarily a crime if Ignatz doesn’t have the intent to commit a crime against persons or property.

I couldn’t find a law prohibiting what the OP describes. (in Washington State anyway)

Apparently, it’s a loophole

Theft of services comes to mind.


One reason you should lock your doors.

I’m pretty sure you see stuff like this on COPS about houses. A person enters (with permission) other persons house - and the police show up and kick them out (unless they are on the lease or something). I’m pretty sure the police would do this for you. I don’t think you need a court order. They aren’t going to force you to drive around with some guy in your car. Although that could make for a good sitcom or something.

I get that houses and cars are different.

ETA: I mean they kick them out as a disagreement occurred between the time they got there - and the time the person that owns/rents the house asks the other person to leave.

Criminal? Probably not, but you can forcibly remove them if you thought they were going to damage your property.
Civil? Anything can be if you can convince a jury, and in this case, you could probably convince a jury that someone was violating your property rights. But what comes to mind is some homeless guy who doesn’t have anything in terms of satisfying a judgment.

It may be a specific trespass offence.

Trespass is what I thought of, too, but what you quoted seems to have an out–what if this other Iggy originally thought it was his car, and thus did entered did not knowingly enter a vehicle without the owner’s permission?

Regular trespass would indicate that, once you told him to leave, he would be trespassing if he refused to do so. But your quotation does not indicate that as part of “criminal trespass to vehicles.” So, if that’s all there is, Ignazio is not trespassing by remaining in the vehicle–only possibly when he entered it.

As with many laws, there is a definitions provision. From 45-6-201:

Once you tell him he does not have permission then he is committing an offense if he remains.

Heh. That’s how the town character where I grew up got around town. She’d get in people’s cars and announce where she wanted to go, like it was a cab. People often took her, too.

He hasn’t committed carjacking according to US federal law; for one thing, the Federal Anti Car Theft Act requires that the perpetrator be armed. Similarly he doesn’t seem to meet the carjacking criteria of the UK’s Theft Act, which appears to require the perpetrator to actually take the vehicle away.

It is most certainly criminal here in Texas. And as I understand it, intent doesn’t matter. Trespassing is itself a crime (Class C misdemeanor, I think).

Oddly enough, I’ve run into this before. An insistent hitchhiker climbed into my pickup bed at a gas station (he was drunk) and wouldn’t leave after “receiving notice to depart”.
§ 30.05. CRIMINAL TRESPASS. (a) A person commits an
offense if he enters or remains on or in property, including an
aircraft or other vehicle, of another without effective consent or
he enters or remains in a building of another without effective
consent and he:
(1) had notice that the entry was forbidden; or
(2) received notice to depart but failed to do so.

If I was the Prosecutor, I would also push for theft/joyriding because Victor has intended to permanently/temporarily deprive Ignatz of his use of the vehicle by a trespassory taking.

Even though the vehicle may be driven, one of the bundle of rights a person has in a personal vehicle is the right to seclusion while travelling. By being forced to haul Victor’s ass around, Ignatz has been deprived of this particular use of his vehicle.

Is it a winner? Maybe. I’m sure a judge would like to grab onto it to punish Victor’s attempt to squeeze into a legal blackhole.

No one is disputing that the owner of the vehicle (who is Victor, not Ignatz, by the way) has had his property rights violated. The question is only whether this violation is criminal rather than purely civil. Much as the prosecutor and judge may like to punish Ignatz for his misdeed, they simply don’t have the option of charging him with theft or criminal trespass if the wording of the criminal statute doesn’t apply to what he’s done. And I think we’ve seen so far that in some jurisdictions, it does, while in others it does not (or at least, there is so far no evidence that it does).

Your definition is of “enter or remain unlawfully,” but the statute you quoted only says “enter unlawfully.” It does seem odd to me that any criminal trespass law would not include the “remain” part, but that does seem to be a plain reading of the statute you gave.

Tangent alert

When I was growing up it was common, upon seeing a vehicle in a parking lot with the head lights on, to open the car door, reach in and turn off the lights. We called it “neighborly”. Today it’s called “illegal entry”. Kinda sad.

Do really think that – even in these suspicious, decadent times – a DA would charge someone and take them to trial for helpfully turning off someone’s lights?
Honestly, really, you think that would happen?

Who knows what the DA might do, but all the cop knows is that person A was seen to enter person B’s car, and person B (or someone else) called 911. At best it would turn into an investment of time to clear things up. At worst you get arrested. An example:

These particular guys didn’t even enter the vehicles, just looked throught the windows in a “suspicious” manner. Any of those other 20+ “car trespasses” could have been wholly inocent. Right or wrong, many people don’t stop to ask anymore, they call 911.

I know won’t enter a car uninvited anymore.

Solution? Turn off passenger airbag. Drive into bridge abutment.

Oh, yeah, how remiss of me not to have considered that vehicular homicide would be the best way of dealing with nonviolent interference with one’s property. :rolleyes: