Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving All Areas of Louisiana


What To Do If You Failed To Return A Leased Car In Louisiana? 

Let’s face it, life gets busy. If you have found yourself in the situation of failing to return a leased car in Louisiana and need to know what your next steps are, you have found the right article.

The Basics Of Leasing A Vehicle In Louisiana

Leasing a vehicle is an alternative to purchasing where you and a dealership have a contracted agreement to operate the vehicle for a specified period of time or mileage at a fixed price. If you fail to return the vehicle to the dealership or extend the lease terms, there could be legal consequences as indicated in the Louisiana state legislature

PRO TIP: Read our article on whether or not stealing a car is a felony! We know it will provide some great information.

what is the difference between car theft and grand theft auto?

Buying Versus Leasing a Car

If you are in need of transportation and considering a new or used car, you may be wondering if you should buy or lease a vehicle from Enterprise or Hertz. Which option is best for you will be determined by your individual needs and financial circumstances. Buying a vehicle means you obtain ownership and build equity overtime by making monthly payments. For the sake of this article, we will focus on leasing a vehicle. 

A lease is a contractual, legal agreement between you (lessee) and a dealership or leasing company (lesser) to utilize a vehicle for a specified period of time or mileage at a fixed price. Lease lengths can vary but usually are anywhere between two and three years and/or annual mileage limits ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 miles. The costs include initial fees and a monthly payment that vary greatly, but in the end, you do not own the vehicle. After the term, the vehicle is returned to the dealership or leasing company.

Benefits of Leasing a Car

Everyone has a different circumstance that can lead them to a decision to lease a car. Here are some of those benefits:

  1. Short-term Saving: Leasing a vehicle follows a different cost calculation as you provide a downpayment, initial fees, but then a monthly payment based on the depreciated value versus purchase price. This in return creates a lower monthly payment or ability to upgrade in models on your budget.
  2. Lower Down Payment: Unless there is some special sale running, regardless of leasing or buying a vehicle, you will need to put down a percentage of the cost towards the financing. But, in the case of leasing, it is significantly less. 
  3. Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs: Always read your lease agreement and warranty information, but in the majority of lease terms and conditions, maintenance and repair costs are covered, or offered at a discounted price. 
  4. More Options: Leasing opens up more options when you are on a budget. You may be able to upgrade to a higher model, go for the luxury brand, or simply save big-time if you just need something to get you from point A to point B. 
  5. Change Often: Because leasing a vehicle has an end date in mind, you have the ability to change what you drive every couple of years. However, if you decide you like the vehicle, you can always buy-out at the end of your lease. 

Make an informed decision to lease a vehicle based on your specific needs, wants, and circumstances. As always, when entering a contractual agreement, be sure to read the fine print. Failure to abide by the terms and conditions can result in extra costs, and in some circumstances, legal percussions such as theft charges.

Each state, and the conditions of each lease by the lesser will vary, but it is general knowledge that failure to return a leased vehicle or extend the lease in advance can result in civil charges as applicable by state law.

Louisiana State Legislature & Failing To Return A Leased Vehicle

Louisiana’s § RS 14:220 states the following:

“Rented or leased motor vehicles; obtaining by false representation, etc.; failure to return; defenses; penalties

A.  If any person rents or leases a motor vehicle and obtains or retains possession of the motor vehicle by means of any false or fraudulent representation including but not limited to a false representation as to his name, residence, employment, or operator’s license, or by means of fraudulent concealment, or false pretense or personation, or trick, artifice, or device; or, if the person with fraudulent intent willfully refuses to return the leased vehicle to the lessor after the expiration of the lease term as stated in the lease contract, the person shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be subject to the penalty provided for in Subsection B of this Section.  Except as provided in Subsection D of this Section, the offender’s failure to return or surrender the motor vehicle within seven calendar days after notice to make such return or surrender has been sent by certified mail to the offender’s last known address, or has been delivered by commercial courier as defined in R.S. 13:3204(D), shall be presumptive evidence of his intent to defraud, and the lessor may report to any law enforcement agency that the rented or leased motor vehicle has been stolen.

B.  Any person found guilty of violating the provisions of this Section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than five years with or without hard labor, or both.

C.  It shall be a complete defense to any civil action arising out of or involving the arrest or detention of any person renting or leasing a motor vehicle that any representation made by him in obtaining or retaining possession of the vehicle is contrary to the fact.

D.  It shall be a complete defense to any civil action arising out of or involving the arrest or detention of any person, upon whom such demand was personally made or personally served, that he failed to return the vehicle to the place specified in the rental agreement within such seventy-two hour period.”

Fail to Return Rental Car to Enterprise

The most common criminal charge we see regarding failure to return a vehicle happens when someone rents a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The individual may keep the car past the period they agreed to keep it. Enterprise will then demand that they return the car immediately. In fact, Enterprise is supposed to send a certified letter to the renter notifying them that they must return the vehicle. The law provides that the renter must return the rented vehicle within 15 days of the letter or else it is presumptive evidence that they had intent to keep the vehicle.

Once intent is established, the prosecutor will feel like he or she can prove the crime. Failure to return a vehicle to Enterprise is a felony in Louisiana. If you fail to return the vehicle in time, they will call the police and a warrant will go out for your arrest. Then, you’ll be faced with having to turn yourself in on the warrant because it will not go away until then. You won’t be able to just call Enterprise and return the car to make the warrant go away.

failure to rental car to enterprise car rental

In Summary: What To Do If You Failed To Return A Leased Car In Louisiana?

As stated by Louisiana Law, civil charges, and in some instances, criminal charges may be filed against you for failure to return a leased car to Enterprise or any other vendor. If you find yourself in such a predicament, call the dealership or leasing company and return the vehicle as soon as possible. Then, you may need to seek legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney if the situation were to escalate to legal charges.

To avoid any unnecessary problems, mark your calendar and set reminders when your lease is expected to end. But, if life happens and you fail to return your leased vehicle in Louisiana, do the right thing, and return it, as after all you do not own it!

You should now better understand the answer to your question: what to do if you failed to return a leased car in Louisiana.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

criminal lawyer

Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

criminal defense law firm that accepts credit cards

Louisiana DWI And Criminal Law Firm

Barkemeyer Law Firm has multiple locations in Louisiana. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

st. tammany chamber of commerce member
Our DWI Lawyers are members the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
© 2023 Barkemeyer Law Firm