If you take another person's car in California without his or her consent, it may lead to two types of charges. First, you might be guilty under the California PC 487 (d) (1) for committing a grand theft auto offense. You might also be guilty of joyriding as outlined under the California VC 10851. Whether the prosecutor charges you with grand theft auto or joyriding will depend on how long you intended to retain the vehicle. You might get a grand theft auto conviction if you want to keep the car permanently or for a substantial period. If you intended to drive the car for a short distance and then return it to the owner, you would face joyriding charges. The crime of grand theft auto may attract hefty penalties, including jail time and fines. Get in touch with us at the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for legal representation if you are facing charges of grand theft auto.
Elements/Components of Grand Theft Auto
For the prosecutor to charge you of committing a grand theft auto crime in California, some aspects of the offense must be evident. First, it should be apparent that you illegally took a vehicle, which belonged to another person. It should also be apparent that the car you took has a worth exceeding $950. The prosecutor should show that you did not have the vehicle owner's consent or permission to acquire the vehicle.
At the time you illegally took the vehicle, it should be evident that you wanted to keep it away from the legit owner permanently. You might be guilty if you intended to keep the vehicle from the legal owner for a period long enough to deprive the owner of a significant portion of the enjoyment or value of the vehicle.
You should also have moved or driven the car from its original location. The movement may be only a short distance. You should also have retained the car for some time, even if it is only a short period.
Many people assume that the crime of California's grand theft auto revolves around luxury vehicles worth thousands of dollars. However, theft of modest vehicles is also common. Most people steal an inexpensive car to obtain vehicle spare parts from them.
There are several ways of committing the crime of California's grand theft auto. You might use deceit or lies, commonly known as pretenses, to obtain another person's vehicle. By making a false statement, you might persuade the owner of the vehicle to give you the ownership of their vehicle. You might also commit grand theft auto if you use trickery to make a vehicle owner give ownership of the vehicle to you.
You might commit the offense of California grand theft auto through embezzlement. This is usually the case if someone entrusts his or her vehicle to you, but you abuse the trust and deprive the vehicle owner of the vehicle.
Illegal Taking of a Car Vs. Grand Theft Auto
The illegal taking of a car, commonly referred to as joyriding, has different elements from the components of California grand theft auto. You might face charges for illegal taking of a car if you take another person's vehicle and drive it without the owner's consent. At the time of taking the vehicle, you should have intended to put the vehicle away from the rightful owner for some time.
There is a thin line between grand theft auto and joyriding, and most people tend to confuse the two crimes. Grand theft auto charges may apply if you intended to keep the vehicle forever or for an extended period.
The illegal taking of a car charge may apply even if you intended to put the vehicle for a short period, even for one hour or half an hour. A standard method for accomplishing both grand theft auto and joyriding is hot wiring.
There is a distinction between California grand theft auto and illegal joyriding because you can get grand theft charges even though the vehicle owners had permitted you to take the vehicle. However, you cannot face joyriding charges if you had the permission of the vehicle owner to take the car. Even though you acquired the vehicle owner's consent/permission through deceit or fraud, you would face joyriding charges.
Punishment/Consequences for Grand Theft Auto in California
The offense of grand theft auto falls under the bigger umbrella of grand theft laws outlined under PC 487. Grand theft auto carries similar penalties as the crime of California's grand theft. The prosecutor may charge you with misdemeanor or felony grand theft charges because the offense is a California wobbler.
The law gives the prosecutor the discretion to decide whether to charge the offense as a misdemeanor offense or a felony. The prosecutor may consider several factors when assigning charges. The factors include your criminal record and the factors surrounding the crime. If you are a repeat offender, you are more likely to face felony grand theft charges. If you do not have a previous criminal history, you might face misdemeanor charges.
However, in most cases, the crime of grand theft auto is a felony. The applicable penalties for the offense include imprisonment in a state prison in California; the imprisonment period is 16 months, two or three years. The court may order you to pay a hefty penalty that may extend up to $10,000. In some instances, the court may impose both fines and imprisonment.
If you have a previous conviction for grand theft, enhanced imprisonment may apply. You might get an additional two, three, or four years of imprisonment. Penalty enhancements also apply if you steal a vehicle worth a very high amount. Further sentencing will be added to the applicable imprisonment.
If the vehicle has a value exceeding $65,000, you might get a sentence enhancement of one year. If the theft involves a car with an amount exceeding $200,000, you might get an additional two years to your applicable sentencing. It is rare to find vehicles with a value exceeding $200,000. However, some grand theft auto offenses revolve around these vehicles.
Penalties for Illegal Taking of a Car
Just like grand theft auto, illegal taking of a car is a wobbler offense, which may get misdemeanor or felony charges. Unlike the crime of joyriding, most prosecutors charge a first-time offense of illegal taking of a car under misdemeanor offenses. For the offense of misdemeanor unlawful taking of a car, the penalties include jail time of not exceeding year in a county jail in California. A fine that does not exceed $5,000 may also apply. The prosecutor has the liberty of treating the illegal taking of a car is a felony offense. If the prosecutor charges the offense as a felony offense, the penalties may include16 months, two or three years in California county jail. The court may also require the defendant to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
The consequences of illegal taking of a car may be more if you take an ambulance, a disabled placard car, or a police vehicle. The extra charges will apply if you took an ambulance engaged in emergency duty. The police or the firefighting vehicle should have the relevant markings to indicate the status of the car. For a car modified for use by a disabled individual, the car should have a placard or a well-displayed distinguishing/official license plate.
It is a felony offense to take any of the three vehicles outlined above unlawfully. For a felony offense of illegal taking of a car, the penalties include jail time of two, three, or four years. The court may also require you to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000. The additional consequences will only apply if you were aware that the car you took was in the outlined categories. The penalties may also apply if you should reasonably have been aware that the car you took was in the outlined categories.
Felony charges for illegal taking of a car may also apply if you have one or more convictions for a felony joyriding. If you have one or more felony convictions for a California felony grand theft, the felony charges for illegal taking of a car may apply. You might get felony unlawful taking of vehicle charges if you have a previous conviction for illegally acquiring cargo with a value of $950 or more. If you have a prior conviction for any of the outlined offenses, felony charges of illegal taking of a car will apply. The penalties you might face include a fine not exceeding $10,000. You might also serve two, three, or four years in California jail.
Typical Legal Defenses
With the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, you can fight grand theft charges. The offenses of California's grand theft auto and illegal taking of a car are severe, and the penalties are detrimental. Your criminal lawyer can negotiate to have the prosecutor reduce your charges to a lesser offense. Some of the typical legal defenses include:
You had no Intent
For grand theft auto charges to apply, you should have had the intent to take the vehicle from the legal owner permanently or for a substantial period. Therefore, with the help of an attorney, you can point out that you had no intent to steal or to keep the vehicle away from the legal owner. The intention to deprive a vehicle owner of the vehicle is a crucial part of defining the crime of California's grand theft auto.
However, the defense of lack of intent may not apply in the crime of illegal taking of a car. Unlike the crime of California grand theft auto that needs the element of intent, the crime of illegal taking of a vehicle does not require you to have intent.
You Believed the Vehicle was Yours
One of the common legal defenses that apply in grand theft cases in California is a claim of right. If the vehicle that you were operating was yours, you might not be guilty of California's grand theft auto or illegal taking of a car. Also, grand theft charges or unlawful taking of vehicle charges cannot apply if you believed that the vehicle in question was yours. Therefore, your lawyer can outline that you had a good faith belief of being the actual owner of the vehicle.
You had the Owner's Permission
You can fight grand theft auto conviction if you prove that you had the consent or the permission of the owner to take the vehicle in question. However, the defense of the owner's consent may not apply in grand theft charges if you used pretense, lies, or trickery to acquire the permission of the vehicle owner.
The vehicle owner might have permitted you to have/use his or her vehicle before. However, if you failed to return the vehicle within the agreed timeframe with the vehicle owner, you might not claim that you had the owner's consent to have the vehicle. For this defense to apply, the use of the vehicle has to be within the agreed scope of the vehicle owner's permission.
You are a Victim of False Accusation
You can fight grand theft auto conviction by pointing out that you were falsely accused, but you did not commit the crime of California grand theft auto. In California, it is common for people to blame others falsely for the crimes of California grand theft auto and joyriding.
For instance, your loved one may have allowed you to have/use his or her vehicle. Then, after arguing, your lover may accuse you of unlawfully taking a car or stealing the vehicle from him/her. You might have illegally taken a car with your friends only for them to accuse you falsely. A competent criminal attorney will gather all the facts and the evidence of your case. An attorney will do anything to ensure that false charges do not apply against you.
Some offenses under California law are closely related to the crimes of California grand theft auto alongside illegal taking of a car. Some of the related crimes include:
Auto Burglary or Burglary
You might be guilty of California burglary under PC 459 if you enter a premise or an enclosure intending to commit petty theft or a felony offense or theft while inside. The charges for auto burglary are similar; however, they will apply if you enter a vehicle and not a building with the intent to steal.
You might enter another individual's garage with the intent of stealing a car. You break into the vehicle, but you do not succeed in taking the vehicle. In this case, you might get auto burglary charges even if you do not succeed in stealing the vehicle.
If you manage to break into the car, and you also succeed in stealing the vehicle from the garage, you might be guilty of both grand theft auto and auto burglary. You will get auto burglary charges for breaking into the car and grand theft charges for stealing or moving the car.
According to California law, the crime of burglary offense is a California felony. The possible sentence for the offense includes 16 months, two years, or three years imprisonment in a county jail in California. The crime of burglary may have a prison term of up to six years in a state prison in California. The longer prison term will apply for committing burglary in an occupied structure.
Taking another person's vehicle may attract carjacking charges, according to the California PC 215. Carjacking charges will apply if you take another person's car directly from them. You might have used either force or fear to take the vehicle from the rightful owner.
Prosecutors charge the crime of carjacking as a felony. The penalties for the offense include imprisonment in a California state prison. The imprisonment period is three, five, or nine years.
In addition to getting felony charges for the crime of carjacking, you might get a strike on your criminal record. According to the Three Strikes rule in California, a strike applies whenever you commit a violent felony. The crime of carjacking is a violent felony.
Petty theft charges may apply in California if you steal a vehicle worth $950 or less. Grand theft charges often apply if the value of the vehicle is more than $950. Petty theft charges for a vehicle worth $950 or less may apply. However, if you have a prior sex offense conviction that requires you to seek registration under the California sex offender's act, you might get higher charges than petty theft.
Higher charges may also apply if you have a prior felony conviction for offenses such as sexual offenses, child molestation, murder, or rape.
If the prosecutor charges you with petty theft for stealing a vehicle worth $950 or less, the charge is a California misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor offense include jail time of up to six months in a California county jail. You might also get a fine not exceeding $1,000.
It is important to note that before the coming to effect of Proposition 47, all lawsuits of vehicle theft qualified as grand theft. The law did not emphasize the worth of the car stolen. Therefore, even for vehicles worth less than $950, defendants would still get grand theft charges.
If you underwent felony conviction, yet the vehicle you stole had a value lower than $950, you can appeal the judgment. You can appeal in line with the voters' initiative, Proposition 47.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
You should not give up when the prosecutor charges you with grand theft auto. The Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can help you to come up with a proper defense. Contact us at 310-502-1314and talk to a competent attorney today.