Penal Code 499b PC - Unlawful Taking of a Bicycle or Vessel

California Penal Code 499b PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to temporarily take someone else's bicycle or vessel without that person's consent. This type of taking is commonly referred to as “joyriding.”

Examples of illegal acts under PC 499b include:

  • Late for a meeting, Jerry “borrows” his neighbor's bike (without the neighbor's consent) and returns it later.
  • Jose takes his girlfriend out on his buddy's ski boat without having his permission.
  • While house-sitting for a friend, Destiny takes the friend's bicycle (with no consent) to run errands.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 499b PC. These include showing that an accused:

  • had the owner's consent;
  • had no intent to use the bike or vessel; and/or,
  • acted out of necessity.

Penalties

The temporary taking of someone else's bike or vessel is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to a California felony or an infraction).

If a defendant takes a bicycle, then the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than three months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $400.

If a defendant takes a vessel, then the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

bike joyride
California Penal Code 499b is the statute that makes it a crime for a person to temporarily take someone else's bicycle without consent

1. What is the legal definition of the unlawful taking of a bicycle or a vessel?

Under California Penal Code 499b PC, it is a crime for a person to temporarily take someone else's bicycle or vessel without that person's consent.1

A prosecutor must prove three elements in order to prove that an accused is guilty of this crime. These include:

  1. the accused temporarily took another person's bike or vessel;
  2. the accused did so without the owner's consent; and,
  3. when the accused took the bike or vessel, he intended to use it for any period of time.2

For purposes of this code section, a “vessel” is any watercraft of any type of size. Some examples include:

  • ferry boats,
  • yachts,
  • ski boats, and
  • rafts.

The “taking” of a bicycle or vessel simply means that a person moves either object some distance.3

Please note that the crime under California Penal Code 499b is a separate and distinct offense from theft.4

2. What are the legal defenses to accusations under Penal Code 499b PC?

A person accused under PC 499b can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for a defendant to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to PC 499b accusations are:

  1. owner's consent;
  2. no intent to use; and/or,
  3. necessity.

2.1. Owner's consent

Recall that a person is guilty under Penal Code 499b only if he takes a bicycle or vessel without the owner's consent. This means that it is a valid legal defense for a defendant to show that, while he may have taken a bike or vessel, he had the owner's permission to do so. This permission, though, must be given before the taking.

2.2. No intent to use

Also recall that an accused can only be convicted under PC 499b if a prosecutor shows that he took a bike or vessel with the intent to use it. Therefore, a solid legal defense is for an accused to show that he did not have this intent. For example, perhaps a defendant took a bike only to move it so that some other person would not steal it, rather than to ride it somewhere.

2.3. Necessity

Under a necessity defense, a defendant essentially tries to avoid guilt by showing that he had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. People sometimes refer to this defense as “guilty with an explanation.” In the context of unlawfully taking a bicycle or vessel, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (e.g., because of an emergency).

man behind bars
Violating this law can result in jail time and/or a fine

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

The temporary taking of someone else's bike or vessel is charged as a misdemeanor in California.5

If a defendant takes a bicycle, then the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than three months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $400.6

If a defendant takes a vessel, then the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.7

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the unlawful taking of a bicycle or vessel. These are:

  1. joyriding – VC 10851;
  2. grand theft auto – PC 487(d)(1); and,
  3. petty theft – PC 484(a) and 488.

4.1. Joyriding – VC 10851

Joyriding is a crime per California Vehicle Code 10851.

Under VC 10851, it is a crime for a person to drive or take someone else's vehicle without that person's consent.8

A prosecutor must prove three elements to show that a person is guilty under Vehicle Code 10851. These include proving that:

  1. the defendant drove or took someone else's vehicle;
  2. the vehicle's owner did not consent to the driving or taking; and,
  3. the defendant acted with the intent to deny the vehicle's owner of possession of the vehicle for any period of time.9

A violation of California VC 10851 is a type of wobbler offense, meaning that it can be punished as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a fine of up to $5,000.10

If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term of up to three years.11

4.2. Grand theft auto – PC 487(d)(1)

California Penal Code 487(d)(1) makes it a crime for a person to permanently take another's vehicle.

Under PC 487(d)(1), a prosecutor must prove several elements in order to successfully convict a defendant of grand theft auto (sometimes referred to as “GTA”). These include:

  1. the defendant took someone's car (other than his own);
  2. the car was worth more than $950 dollars;
  3. the defendant did not have permission from the owner to take the car;
  4. when he took the car, the defendant intended to either deprive the owner of it permanently, or, to take it away for a significant period of time; and,
  5. the defendant moved the car (even if only a very short distance) and kept it for a period of time (however brief).12

GTA is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In practice, however, the crime typically leads to a felony that is punishable by a jail term of:

  • 16 months;
  • two years; or,
  • three years.13

4.3. Petty theft – PC 484(a) and 488

Petty theft is a crime under both California Penal Codes 484(a) and 488.

In Penal Code 484a and 488, California law defines "petty theft" as the unlawful taking of property that is valued at nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less.14

The majority of petty theft cases arise when someone simply physically takes property that belongs to someone else. This is known as "theft by larceny."15

However, there are other, more complicated forms of theft that sometimes give rise to petty theft charges, like:

Petty theft is a misdemeanor in California.17

The maximum penalties for most petty theft convictions are:

  • a fine of up to $1,000, and/or
  • up to six months in county jail.18

Were you accused of temporarily taking a bicycle or vessel in California? Call us for help…

california joyriding criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under California Penal Code 499b, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 499b PC. This code section reads as follows: “(a) Any person who shall, without the permission of the owner thereof, take any bicycle for the purpose of temporarily using or operating the same, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding four hundred dollars ($400), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding three months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

    (b) Any person who shall, without the permission of the owner thereof, take any vessel for the purpose of temporarily using or operating the same, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

  2. See same.

  3. People v. Barrick (1982), 33 Cal. 3d 115.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 499b PC.

  6. California Penal Code 499b(a) PC.

  7. California Penal Code 499b(b) PC.

  8. California Vehicle Code 10851 VC.

  9. See same.

  10. See same.

  11. See same.

  12. California Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC; and, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 1800 - Theft [including grand theft auto] by Larceny (Pen. Code, § 484).

  13. California Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC; and, California Penal Code 1170(h)(1) PC.

  14. California Penal Code 484 and 488 PC.

  15. See same.

  16. California Penal Code 484 PC.

  17. California Penal Code 490 PC.

  18. See same.

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