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Unlawful Use of Motor Vehicles in Queensland

Car-related crime is on the rise in Queensland, capturing widespread attention in the media. Statistics from Queensland Crime Statistics reveal a concerning total of ~19,000 Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle charges in 2022 alone. Understanding the legal implications, penalties, and defences surrounding this issue is crucial for individuals facing such charges.

What is Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle in Queensland?

Under the Queensland Criminal Code Act 1899, unlawful use of a motor vehicle is the unauthorised taking or use of someone else's motor vehicle without their consent. Queensland legislation classifies this offense under various categories, including:

  1. Motor Vehicle Theft: This offense involves stealing a motor vehicle without the owner's permission or legal authority. It includes the act of taking a vehicle by force, using deception, or gaining access to the vehicle through illicit means, such as picking locks or using forged keys.

  2. Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle: This offense pertains to the unauthorised use of a motor vehicle, even if it is temporarily, without the owner's consent. It encompasses situations where an individual borrows or takes a vehicle without permission, exceeds the scope of authorized use, or uses a stolen or tampered key.

What are the legal consequences?

Penalties and consequences for unlawful use of a motor vehicle in Queensland can vary depending on the specific circumstances at hand, and the defendant's criminal history. The possible legal consequences may include:

  1. Imprisonment: Offenders can be sentenced to imprisonment for varying periods, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The court considers factors such as whether violence was involved, the value of the vehicle, and any aggravating circumstances.

  2. Fines: Individuals convicted of unlawfully using motor vehicles can be ordered to pay fines as a form of punishment. The amount of the fine is determined by the court and is often proportional to the severity of the offense.

  3. Driver's License Disqualification: The court may impose a disqualification period on the offender's driver's license. This means that the individual will be prohibited from driving for a specified period, further restricting their mobility.

  4. Restitution: In cases where the stolen vehicle is damaged or lost, the court may order the offender to pay restitution to the vehicle's owner or the insurance company to compensate for the losses incurred.

Potential Defences

When facing charges for unlawful use of a motor vehicle in Queensland, individuals have several defences they can consider.

Remember, It is crucial to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer to determine the most suitable defence strategy for one's case.

Some of the key defences include:

  1. Mistaken Identity: If the accused can demonstrate that they were not the person who unlawfully used the motor vehicle and can provide evidence supporting their alibi, they may raise a defence of mistaken identity.

  2. Lack of Intent: If the accused can show that they had no intention to unlawfully use the motor vehicle and that they reasonably believed they had the owner's consent or authority to use the vehicle, it may be a viable defence.

  3. Consent: If the accused can prove that they had obtained the owner's consent or permission to use the motor vehicle, either explicitly or implicitly, they may argue that their use of the vehicle was lawful.

  4. Honest and Reasonable Mistake: In some cases, an accused person may have honestly and reasonably believed that they had lawful authority or permission to use the motor vehicle. This defence may apply if there was a genuine misunderstanding or miscommunication regarding the ownership or authorisation to use the vehicle.

  5. Duress: If the accused can demonstrate that they were compelled to unlawfully use the motor vehicle due to a threat of immediate harm or violence from another person, they may raise a defence of duress.

  6. Necessity: In exceptional circumstances, the defence of necessity may be applicable. If the accused can show that their actions were necessary to prevent greater harm or danger, such as using the vehicle in an emergency situation to save someone's life, this defence may be raised.

  7. Lack of Evidence: The defence may challenge the prosecution's evidence and argue that there is insufficient proof to establish the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This could involve questioning the reliability of witness testimony, the accuracy of forensic evidence, or any procedural irregularities.

It's important to note that each case is unique, and the availability and success of these defences will depend on the specific facts and evidence presented. Legal advice from a qualified professional is crucial when determining the most appropriate defence strategy.

Assess Your Options

If you have been accused of unlawful use or possession of a motor vehicle in Queensland, or other motor vehicle-related charge, you need to take action as soon as possible.

A criminal lawyer will help you face the courts, assess your situation, aid in possible defences, and provide you with peace of mind that you are securing a far better outcome for yourself; than if you were to go without.

No one is ever ready to face the courts on their own.

Contact Creevey Horrell Criminal Lawyers

Based in Brisbane, Roma, Toowoomba, and Townsville.

Visit to contact us today.


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