If I allowed someone to use my car and they don’t return it can I report it stolen in the state of California?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If I allowed someone to use my car and they don’t return it can I report it stolen in the state of California?

Let a friend use my car. I handed them the keys and they have been gone for two
months and don’t know where to find them. Can I report the car stolen and where
can I find the California laws on stuff like that?

Asked on January 10, 2019 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes: when you let someone use or borrow something for a limited time but do not return it, that IS theft--the issue, however, may be showing that the person knew that his/her use was limited, since only if they were aware that they had to return it at a certain time would this be considered a crime. (A crime requires a criminal or wrongful intent.) That may be why the police are not acting here--because they are not sure that under the facts of this situation, the person intended to steal the car, or whether there was ambiguity about when it should have been returned.
Police are people: some officers take things more seriously, or have a different view of them, than others. Try contacting other law enforcement department/agency (e.g. state police)--it may also be that the local officers in your city/town don't want to get involved in something which, if the person is no longer in town, is outside their jurisdiction or which would require extra work and paperwork for them--they may simply be making an excuse. Law enforcement with a wider geographic scope and different institutional culture may see things differently, so it's worth contacting them.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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