How much time do you have to return a rental car before it becomes theft?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Theft |

There’s more to renting a car than just being an option for those who don’t own an automobile. Renting can sometimes be more cost-effective than purchasing a brand-new vehicle, especially if the driver only needs an automobile for an irregular trip. It’s also one way to drive in an extravagant vehicle on a special one-day occasion, such as a wedding or a luxury party.

However, drivers must remember that they only borrow a rental car. Failing to return the vehicle is theft in Nebraska – severe penalties await anyone convicted.

But how much leeway do drivers have until a failure to return the car is considered theft?

Three-day cutoff

Per state law, a person is guilty of theft if they fail to return the car they rented within 72 hours of the written demand for the return of the vehicle. The rental car service will send this written demand to the address specified by the driver, so the driver must give their current address to ensure they don’t miss the letter.

Penalties for rental car theft

If a driver fails to return the rented car within 72 hours of the written demand, they can face a theft charge. Because rental cars can easily cost thousands of dollars, the theft offense becomes a Class IIA felony.

A conviction for a Class IIA felony theft leads to up to 20 years in prison.

In conclusion, drivers only have within three days of receiving a written demand to return a rental car. Failure to return the vehicle can lead to decades of prison time – the same punishment reserved for those convicted of sexual abuse, burglary and theft of more than $5,000.