What Happens When You Don’t Return a Rental Car in Nevada

If you drive, you might have rented a car before. For instance, if you’re on vacation in Vegas and want to take a day trip to Hoover Dam or visit Mount Charleston. If you plan on taking day trips from The Strip to any out of town destinations, it would be more cost-effective to rent a car instead of relying on Uber or Lyft.

It’s possible that you got into a car accident on the I-15 while driving, and as a result, your car is either being repaired or deemed a total loss. You might need to rent a car in order to get around. Maybe you’re in town on business and need to make multiple stops for meetings for your business and it’s easier to get around with a rental car.

When you rent a car, you will sign an agreement that specifies the rental period’s start and end date, pick-up and drop-off locations, car model, daily rental rate, and insurance coverage. All rental car agreements contain information about what to do if you’re involved in an accident with a rental car and what to do when that happens.

Rental car agreements are binding legal agreements for the use of a vehicle from a company like Hertz, Alamo, or Thrifty to a company or individual for a specific period of time.

But what happens when you fail to return the rental vehicle on time or at all?

What Happens When I Don’t Return My Rental Car on Time in Nevada?

Failing to return a rental in Nevada is considered a crime of Embezzlement.

Embezzlement in Nevada is wrongfully taking property that you have legally been entrusted with like a rental car.

You signed the rental agreement and took the vehicle from the company agreeing to return it at a specific date and time and failed to do so. If the rental car agreement has expired and the car has not been returned, the renter can face embezzlement charges.

Merely forgetting to return a rental car on time is not a crime. If you are late returning the car or returning it to another rental car place instead of the one agreed upon in the original agreement is also not a crime.

If you need to keep the rental car for a longer period than what was initially agreed upon, you can request an extension from the rental company by calling them. In some cases this might not be possible due the amount of cars available. You may also have to return the original car and rent a new one if you need to extend your rental time. The bottom line is stay in communication with your rental company if anything changes with your rental agreement.

Sometimes there are unforeseeable circumstances that prevent you from returning the vehicle on time, like an accident. These are not considered stealing the rental car but could cost you more for violating your vehicle rental agreement.

The Crime of Embezzlement

The crime of embezzlement require the “intent to steal”

So only if you fail to return your rental without any further communication with the rental car company and just take the car after the agreement has ended you could be charged with embezzlement.

The penalties for intentionally failing to return a rental car in Nevada depends on the value of the car rented.

For example:

  • The car value is $1,200 or less is a misdemeanor with up to 6 months in jail, up to a $1,000 fine and restitution
  • The car value of $1,200-$5,000 is a class D felony punishable by 1-4 years in state prison restitution, and up to a $5,000 fine
  • Car value of $5,000 to less than $25,000 is a category C felony punishable by 1-5 years in state prison, restitution, and a $10,000 fine at the judge’s discretion
  • Car value $25,000 to less than $100,000 is a category B felony punishable by 1-10 years in state prison, restitution, and a $10,000 fine
  • Car value of $100,000 or more is a category B felony and punishable by 1-20 years in state prison and a $15,000 plus restitution.

Most Common Defenses Against Failure to Return a Rental Car

There are two main defenses for failure to return a rental car in Nevada:

  1. Lack of intent to steal: if you rented a car and a personal emergency occurred that prevented you from returning the car on time, you might argue that you had no intention of keeping the car beyond the rental agreement.
  2. Establishing you had consent: you’ll have to demonstrate that the owner or rental company gave you permission to keep the vehicle longer. In some cases there may have been a paperwork error with the rental agreement.

What Is the Time Limit to Return a Rental Car

According to Nevada Law, you have at least 72 hours to return a rental car before it is considered embezzlement. The statute reads:

NRS 205.312 Willful or intentional failure to return leased or rented vehicle to owner: inference of embezzlement.

1) Whenever any person who has leased or rented a vehicle willfully and intentionally fails to return the vehicle to its owner within 72 hours after the lease or rental agreement has expired, that person may be inferred to have embezzled the vehicle.

Most rental companies offer a grace period for returning your rental car late. If you realize you may be late, call the rental company as soon as possible. They can charge you a late fee for the return, however late fees can pile up to large rental bills.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone experiences situations beyond their control and rental companies may be willing to work with you.  Be sure to read all the terms of your rental agreement so that you know what to expect if an unexpected event occurs.

The Difference Between Stealing a Car From Failing to Return a Rental Car

Most people would think that failing to return a rental car is the same crime as stealing a car out right from an owner or car lot. However, they couldn’t be more different.

Stealing a car from a person or company is the crime of grand theft auto or grand larceny of a motor vehicle.

NRS 205.228 states that:

A person who intentionally steals, takes and carries away, drives away or otherwise removes a motor vehicle owned by another person committed grand larceny of a motor vehicle.

Grand Larceny of a motor vehicle or grand theft auto is punishable by:

  • 1-5 years in prison
  • Restitution
  • Fines up to $10,000

Taking someone else’s car without their permission is considered grand larceny, not embezzlement. Embezzlement of a vehicle only applies when someone steals a vehicle that they were legally entrusted to.

What to Do if You’re Accused of Failing to Return a Rental Car

Failing to return a rental within 72 hours can result in charges being filed for embezzlement.

Embezzlement is a crime with serious consequences, and you need to hire an attorney immediately.

Most people don’t know the ins and outs of the legal system and can be confused and scared after being arrested or charged with a crime. The choices you make today can have a direct effect on your future.

A criminal defense attorney with expertise in your specific case will apply their skills and experience to defend your case.

Every case is different and requires a unique approach to each client.

The Defenders Will:

  • Aggressively put in every effort to get the penalties lowered
  • Help achieve fair settlements or plea bargains
  • Can protect you from the prosecution
  • Can investigate the evidence to determine if you should have even been charged
  • Will fight to keep your criminal record clean

Call our office today for a free case evaluation.

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