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Facing Criminal Charges for Not Returning a Rental Car?

Published December 11, 2020 by ADRAS & ALTIG, Attorneys at Law
man putting luggage in the back of a rental vehicle in Las Vegas, NV

It happens. The car you’ve rented becomes so comfortable you wonder what would happen if you turned it in just a few minutes late. Minutes turn into hours; hours into days.

Months pass. You’re thinking by now the rental company – with gazillions of rental cars in its fleet – hasn’t even missed it. Then suddenly you’re pulled over by a police officer.


You’re hit with utter panic and sheer dread. You’ll need back-up for this, serious back-up. Fortunately for you, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys Adras & Altig are at the ready 24/7 to advocate for your rights and freedom.

Failure to Return a Rental Car

Things can get complicated under the laws of Nevada. There’s a distinction between stealing a vehicle, typically called “grand theft auto” or “grand larceny of a vehicle,” and the crime of stealing a rental vehicle, which is typically considered a form of embezzlement.

On the other hand, based on NRS 205.312, “embezzlement of a rental vehicle can occur if a person who has rented a vehicle willfully and intentionally fails to return the vehicle to the rental company or owner within 72 hours of the expiration of the rental agreement.”

Most companies offer a grace period between 29 minutes and 2.5 hours. If you realize you may be late, call the rental company as soon as possible. They can charge late fees, however, which tend to pile up.

What Are the Penalties for Rental Car Theft?

Stealing a rental car is classified in Nevada as a felony. It doesn’t matter if it’s grand theft auto or embezzlement of the vehicle.

As of last summer, the first offense for vehicle embezzlement (or criminally keeping a rental car after a contract) became classified as a category C felony, which can carry a sentence of at least one-year imprisonment and up to 5 years, along with a fine of up to $10,000.

A second offense within five years brings even stronger punishment. In any case, you may need to pay restitution to the rental company.

Legal Defenses If You’re Charged with Not Returning a Rental Car

You may have two primary defenses in a situation such as this:

  • Lack of intent to steal. For example, if you rent a car, and a personal emergency arises that prevents you from returning the car on time, you might argue that you did not intend to keep it beyond the rental period.
  • Establishing that you had consent. You’ll want to demonstrate the owner of the vehicle gave you consent to keep the car longer. You may have misunderstood when you called in to request an extension. Or there may have been a record-keeping error, for instance.

How Our Lawyers Help People Facing Charges Related to Not Returning a Rental Car

If you are accused of stealing a rental car in Nevada, don’t blow it off. Call our partners at Adras & Altig for a free case evaluation. We’ll bring to bear nearly 40 years of combined criminal experience to help you understand the charges you’re facing and your legal options.

Our clients say it best. They describe us as hard-nosed criminal defense attorneys who truly care about you. This is not just a numbers game for us. Using a team approach, we thrive on seeing our clients achieve the justice they deserve. For us, it’s less about ego and more about results.

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