Accused of Rental Car Theft in San Diego County?
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Accused of Rental Car Theft in San Diego County?

By San Diego Attorney on January 7, 2022

San Diego County is experiencing a rash of car thefts, including rental cars. The rise in auto thefts has led law enforcement to increase the number of personnel focused on identifying, arresting, and charging rental car thieves. Unfortunately, some people are caught in the crossfire, accused of stealing a rental car when they have been unable to return it on time, or due to an error by the car rental company. If you are charged with rental car theft in San Diego County, you are facing very serious consequences.

Renting a Car: The Requirements

You cannot rent a car in San Diego County without a valid driver’s license, a credit card, and valid car insurance. A 2022 change in law allows rental car companies to charge up to $25/day for rental car insurance, but they are not required to check your coverage, and the rental company does not automatically provide liability protection. It is the person renting the vehicle who is responsible for carrying insurance.

Rental Car Contracts and Your Responsibilities

When you rent a car, you sign a contract. The contract outlines your responsibilities for the vehicle, including the requirement that you return the vehicle within five days after the rental agreement expires. If you fail to do so, you may be charged with stealing the vehicle. The charges must be supported by evidence, including a legible copy of the signed rental car agreement, your driver’s license number, address, and other evidence. The company is required to reveal what steps they have taken to recover the vehicle.

Auto Theft Rings and You.

Your personal information may have been stolen and used to rent a car, which is then never returned, either taken to Mexico or another state to be sold. Even if you are entirely innocent of involvement, you will be caught in a difficult situation, accused of theft and forced to prove you did not commit the crime. Even an innocent person who is a victim of theft of personal information will be in an uphill legal battle, facing a police investigation, pulled over, arrested and charged, and taken into custody.

How Police Track Rental Car Thefts

Law enforcement may use GPS tracking to find a stolen rental car. These vehicles are equipped with GPS navigation systems, but currently, car rental companies cannot track a rental car location until five days after the rental contract has expired. After that point, the tracking technology can be used to identify the location of the vehicle.

Defending a Charge of Rental Car Theft

If you are charged with auto theft, you are innocent until proven guilty – but it won’t feel that way. You will be arrested, charged, booked into custody, and must await a hearing to post bail. Even if you are innocent or have an explanation for your continued possession of the vehicle, you will be forced to defend against the charges to seek to avoid heavy penalties, including prison time, fines, and other penalties.

To defend against the charge, various defense strategies could be employed:

  • You did not violate the rental car contract.
  • You asked for an extension on the contract over the phone.
  • The rental car company incorrectly reported the car stolen.
  • You contacted the rental car company to inform them that you were keeping the vehicle longer.

If you are accused of stealing a rental car, you need legal representation to help you fight back. James N. Dicks, the founder of jD LAW, P.C., is a former Los Angeles Police Department investigator and is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist. He has years of experience as a police officer and has extensive trial experience, and when the firm takes on a case, the legal team is professional, acts fast, and does everything legally possible to help clients avoid a conviction.

Call (760) 630-2000 to speak with jD LAW, P.C. immediately if you are facing charges related to the theft of a rental car. We offer a free initial consultation and offer services in both Spanish and English.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense

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