According to CW 39 Houston, a 45-year-old woman was recently arrested for stealing a 52-foot yacht from a dock at Heard’s Lane in Galveston. She apparently enjoyed a “joyride” on the stolen Jefferson Monticello yacht named Loyalty before Galveston police called in the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance in picking her up. The yacht’s owners actually live on the boat but were gone when the suspect hopped on board and piloted the yacht out to Offatts Bayou on the morning of May 9th.
Even worse for the defendant, police found four grams of what they suspect is methamphetamine on her, which will increase the criminal penalties she is facing. They are still awaiting final tests to confirm the substance.
Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle is a Felony
Police aren’t sure how the suspect got on the boat since it is surrounded by a 10-foot wall. Nor do they know how she got the keys to start it up and pilot it away. The owners have been living on the boat for years. When they returned, they were shocked to see the boat was gone.
What is clear, however, is that the defendant is facing felony charges for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, under Penal Code § 31.07. Under this statute, it is illegal to operate someone’s boat, plane, or motor-propelled vehicle intentionally or knowingly without the owner’s consent.
This could be a costly joyride for the defendant as well. Because unauthorized use is a state jail felony, the defendant is facing a minimum of 180 days in jail (and a maximum of two years). Depending on her criminal history, she might even be charged with a third-degree felony and face a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years behind bars. She can also face a $10,000 fine.
Possession of crystal meth is also a second-degree felony and can result in up to 20 years behind bars. This could prove to be a very costly joyride.
Defending Against These Charges
There are really only two defenses to this type of charge—the owners gave consent or you did not know you were piloting someone’s boat. It’s hard to see how the defendant could raise either one. Based on their statements to the media, the owners don’t know the woman, and it’s difficult to imagine she didn’t know she was using someone’s boat without permission.
We will have to wait for more facts to come out. Perhaps the owners gave the keys to someone who represented himself as the true owner of the boat. This type of “mistake of fact” defense is the only one we can see being possible.
Call Tad Nelson to Speak with a Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney
We provide full-service criminal defense representation to those in Galveston and League City accused of a crime. Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, you need a seasoned advocate who’s got your back. Contact Tad Law as soon as possible to schedule a consultation.