Varghese Summersett

By now, you’ve probably heard about the car theft TikTok trend that’s sweeping the nation. Teenagers and young adults are using USB cables to hotwire Kia and Hyundai vehicles and then taking them on a joyride – sometimes even intentionally crashing the vehicles.

The motive behind the trend appears to be “street cred,” but people who are participating in the social media challenge are risking a lot more than just their reputation.

In Texas, stealing a car is generally a felony that can result in jail time, steep fines, and a criminal record. If someone is injured or killed as a result of car theft, the charges and penalties can be even more serious and life-altering. In this article, we are going to discuss the trend and the possible criminal consequences associated with it in Texas.

What is the car theft TikTok trend?

The car theft TikTok trend – which is also referred to as “KIA Boys” or the “Kia Challenge” – is being blamed for a spike in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles across the country, including in North Texas. The challenge involves using a USB cable to hotwire the car and then driving it around before abandoning it or intentionally crashing it. The “joyride” is often filmed and posted on TikTok, YouTube or other social media platforms.

The trend started in 2021 in Milwaukee and began picking up steam nationwide in the late spring and summer of this year. Certain Kia and Hyundai model vehicles are being targeted because they have a keyless ignition system that can be fooled by a USB cable.

What kind of charges could you face if you are arrested in the car theft TikTok challenge in Texas?

There are various charges in Texas that people who participate in this challenge could face, depending on the specific facts and circumstances. Whether the vehicle was damaged and if anyone was injured or killed in the commission will factor heavily into what charges are filed. Some of the potential charges include:

  • Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, also known as “joyriding;”
  • Vehicle theft;
  • Evading arrest;
  • Manslaughter.

We are going to take a look at the crime and punishment for these charges below. If you are under investigation for any of these offenses or have been arrested stemming from the car theft TikTok challenge, you will need a skilled criminal defense attorney to defend you.

What is unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in Texas?

Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (UUMV) in Texas is also sometimes referred to as joyriding. This charge would apply to the car theft TikTok trend if the person who took the vehicle later returned it.

Under Texas law, a person commits unauthorized use of a motor vehicle if he or she intentionally or knowingly operates a vehicle without the owner’s consent. UUMV is a state jail felony in Texas, which is punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine.

What is vehicle theft in Texas?

In Texas, vehicle theft, or auto theft, falls under the general theft statute, which means a person commits this offense if he or she takes a vehicle without the owner’s permission and without legal justification and has no intention of giving it back.

The classification and penalty for auto theft depends on the value of the vehicle. For example, if the car was valued between $2500 and $30,000 it would be a state jail felony punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility and a maximum $10,000 fine.

The table below will break down the classifications and penalty ranges based on values.

Amount Offense ClassificationsPenalty
under $100Class C Misdemeanor$500 fine
100750Class B MisdemeanorUp to 180 days in jail
7502500Class A MisdemeanorUp to 1 year in jail
250030000State Jail Felony180 days - 2 years state jail
30000150000Third Degree Felony2-10 years in prison
150000300000Second Degree Felony2-20 years in prison
300000+First Degree Felony5-99 years or life

The difference between vehicle theft and UUMV is that when a person commits UUMV, they intend on returning the vehicle. When a person commits auto theft, they have no intention of returning the vehicle.

What is evading arrest in Texas?

In Texas, a person commits evading arrest in a vehicle if he or she intentionally flees a law enforcement officer who is attempting to detain or arrest them. So if a person is participating in the car theft TikTok challenge and tries to run from the law, he or she could be charged with evading arrest, as well as vehicle theft.

Evading arrest in a vehicle is a state jail felony, punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility and a maximum $10,000 fine.

What is manslaughter in Texas?

Manslaughter is an extremely serious charge in Texas that occurs when someone recklessly causes another person’s death. We often see this charge stemming from accidents; there was no intent to kill anyone but it occurred as the result of reckless behavior.

For example, if you steal a car as part of the Kia TikTok trend and then fatally strike a pedestrian in a crosswalk, that could constitute manslaughter.

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Arrested in the car theft TikTok trend?

Many people who have been arrested in connection with the car theft TikTok trend are juveniles or young adults. In Texas, a person is considered a juvenile if they are under the age of 17. Juveniles are handled differently than adults by the justice system so it’s important to have an attorney who is skilled in juvenile law if you or a loved one is a minor. One of our partners at Varghese Summersett is board certified in juvenile law and has extensive experience handling these types of cases.

Many young people are arrested for mistakes and bad decisions that stem from peer pressure, impulsivity, or lack of maturity. Unfortunately, an arrest for theft can have life-altering consequences that can affect your ability to get a job, housing or financial aid for college.

If you or a loved one has been arrested in connection with the car theft TikTok trend, call us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with an experienced North Texas criminal defense attorney. We will work tirelessly to resolve your case in a manner that will not have a lasting negative impact on your future. We serve Fort Worth, Dallas, and the surrounding areas.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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