Grand Theft Auto & Motor Vehicle Theft
California has two statutes, one in the Penal Code and one in the Vehicle Code, which refer to crimes of motor vehicle theft. There is a very fine line of distinction between grand theft auto and the theft and unlawful taking of a vehicle, and very specific circumstances have to be proven in order to have one or the other charge brought against the defendant. Intent is particularly important in determining which crime the defendant has committed, or if they have committed a crime at all.
Because there are so many complexities present in California's laws that address these types of crimes, it is highly advised you get in touch with a dependable southern California criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of either offense. Call The Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann today at (888) 744-7730 for much-needed legal advice on your situation.
What is Considered Grand Theft Auto in California?
According to California Penal Code Section 487, a person may be convicted of grand theft auto if he or she meets the following criteria:
- The defendant took or drove a vehicle;
- The vehicle did not belong to the defendant; and
- The vehicle was taken with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
It does not matter what method the defendant used to take the vehicle, whether it was left unattended with keys inside, hotwired, or broken into and hotwired. The key factor in grand theft auto cases is intent.
What is Considered Theft and Unlawful Taking of a Vehicle in California?
Under California Vehicle Code Section 10851, an individual can be convicted of the crime of theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle if the following criteria are established:
- The defendant drove or took another person's vehicle;
- The vehicle was taken without the owner's consent; and
- The vehicle was taken with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner of it.
Usually, when a person is charged with this crime, it is implied that they either had some sort of relation with the owner of the vehicle, or took a "joyride" with the stolen vehicle.
What are the Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft Crimes in California?
Both grand theft auto and theft and unlawful taking of a vehicle are considered "wobblers" in California, meaning they may be treated as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the court's decision. They also share similar penalties.
A misdemeanor conviction of either crime may result in a jail sentence of up to a year. As a felony, both crimes are punishable by 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail or state prison. If the defendant has any prior convictions, he or she may face sentence enhancements. Furthermore, subsequent convictions are punishable under California's Three Strikes Law.
Fighting for Your Future
If you decide to seek the assistance of the legal team at The Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann, we will use the full scope of our knowledge and skills to net you significantly reduced charges, if they're not dropped altogether. We may be able to employ a defense based on intent, consent, or any other factors; whatever your strongest defense may be, we will do our best to find it. Please contact us online or by calling (888) 744-7730 if you have any questions about your case.