Common Crimes

Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.


Unlawful Driving Away of Automobile (UDAA)

Statute: MCL 750.413
Crime Group: Property
Sentence Class
: E
Minimum Sentence: 0 Months
Maximum Sentence1: 60 Months (5 Years)
Maximum Fine: Unspecified
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d 24.1
Sex Offender Registration Required: No

Statutory Language:

Any person who shall, willfully and without authority, take possession of and drive or take away, and any person who shall assist in or be a party to such taking possession, driving or taking away of any motor vehicle, belonging to another, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years.


Because of movies and television, most people are familiar with the phrase “Grand Theft Auto”, the term used in California statutes (and in the statutes of some other states) for stealing an automobile. Michigan’s version of “Grand Theft Auto” has the less-catchy name “Unlawful Driving Away of an Automobile”, or “UDAA”. The two laws vary by more than just their names; states with “Grand Theft Auto” statutes require that the defendant intend to steal a car, while under Michigan’s UDAA statute a person can be convicted for merely driving the car away without permission . . . even if (s)he only intended to “borrow” it temporarily and return it later.

To convict a person of UDAA, the prosecution must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The vehicle belonged to someone other than the defendant;
  2. The defendant took possession of the vehicle and drove or took it away;
  3. The defendant did not have either the authority or owner’s permission to take/drive the vehicle; and
  4. The defendant intended to take/drive the vehicle away.

The most difficult element for the prosecutors to prove can vary based on the circumstances of the event. Typically, however, the main point of contention in a UDAA case is whether or not the defendant reasonably believed (s)he had permission to take the vehicle.

Occasionally the prosecution will allow a defendant to plea to the lesser charge of “Use Without Authority but Without Intent to Steal” (sometimes refered to as “Joyriding”). This charge is a “high court misdemeanor” that carries a maximum sentence of 2 years or a fine of not more than $1,500.00. Where a defendant is a first-time offender, the court may (at its discretion) reduce the maximum sentence to 3 months or $500.00.

Additionally, a defendant who is between the ages of 17 and 21 (or between 21 and 24 years of age with approval from the prosecutor) may be eligible for sentencing under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”, MCL 762.11). HYTA is a deferred sentencing program that recognizes that when people are young, they often make stupid mistakes that should not haunt them for the rest of their lives. If a defendant is sentenced under HYTA, the court allows the defendant to offer a guilty plea, but takes the plea “under advisement” without entering it as a conviction. The court will then place the defendant on probation for a term set by the court. A defendant who successfully completes the probation will have all charges dropped and no public record of the offense will remain. However, a defendant who does not successfully complete the HYTA probation will have his/her probation revoked, the conviction will be entered, and a new (usually harsher) sentence will be imposed without a trial. HYTA status may be granted by a judge as many times as the judge wants; there is no “one per lifetime” limitation (although many judges do have a “one HYTA” policy).

A defendant convicted under this statute will typically be sentenced according to the Michigan sentencing guidelines. Because these guidelines consider both the nature of the current crime and the past record of the defendant—and because the guidelines are “advisory only” and judges are not required to follow them—it is impossible to predict a likely sentence without taking a look at the specific facts of a defendant’s case and reviewing the past record of a defendant, and even then such predictions are an “educated guess” at best. While fines and probation are common, many defendants are also sentenced to serve time in the county jail. It is rare for first-time offenders to receive sentences exceeding 12 months, which would require the defendant to go to prison.

1Maximum sentence shown is for a first-time felony offender. Prior felonies make a defendant liable for “Habitual Offender” (“HO”) sentencing enhancement. Thus, for a defendant with one prior felony or attempted felony (“HO2”), the maximum sentence raises to 90 months (7.5 years); for a defendant with two prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO3”), the maximum sentence raises to 120 months (10 years); and a defendant with three or more prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO4”) faces a maximum sentence of life.




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