California Vehicle Code Section 10851 - Example Case

In People v. Clark (1967) 251 Cal. App. 2d 868, the Court of Appeal reversed a defendant's conviction under Vehicle Code section 10851, finding that the evidence showed only that defendant was a passenger in the vehicle. The court explained that, when a defendant is a passenger, a conviction under Vehicle Code section 10851 must rest on the theory that defendant was "'a party or accessory to or an accomplice in the driving'" (Id. at p. 874, quoting Veh. Code, 10851, subd. (a).) "At a minimum, the defendant must have known that the vehicle had been unlawfully acquired and had that knowledge at a time when he could be said to have, in some way, aided or assisted in the driving. Knowledge of the unlawful taking, acquired after the ride started and when defendant could neither stop the trip nor leave the vehicle is not enough." (Ibid.)