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Facing Los Angeles Grand Theft Auto Charges?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on September 10, 2022

Grand Theft Auto is a serious charge relating to the unlawful taking and moving of a vehicle with the intent to keep it. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison. It’s important to obtain skilled and experienced legal representation to help navigate these charges.

What is Grand Theft Auto?

The city of Los Angeles seems to be intertwined with Grand Theft Auto, as the popular game series “Grand Theft Auto V” is set in the streets of LA. However, the game and the charge are completely different.

Grand Theft Auto is any theft crime where the item stolen was an automobile. The elements of the crime that the prosecutor must prove for a defendant to be found guilty are:

  1. The defendant took a car that is owned by someone else;
  2. The defendant took the car without the vehicle owner’s consent;
  3. When the defendant took the car, they intended to keep it permanently or keep it for such a time period that the owner would be deprived of its value or use; and
  4. The defendant moved the car, even a short distance, and kept it for a time period, however brief.

The law relevant to the charge of Grand Theft Auto in California is the California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) PC: Grand Theft Auto. While these charges can relate to the general theft of an automobile, they can also arise from obtaining an automobile through false pretenses, purchasing an automobile without actually completing the payment, or failing to return a rental vehicle. Grand Theft Auto isn’t limited to cars; it includes RVs, campers, boats, and trucks.

Penalties for Grand Theft Auto

A charge of Grand Theft Auto is considered a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony, on a case-by-case basis. Some details that may sway the case one way or another include the method in which the automobile was taken, the value of the automobile, the damage it endured, and the defendant’s prior criminal history, especially a history of stealing cars.

The potential penalties for Grand Theft Auto in California vary: if charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail, but if filed as a felony, the maximum penalty is three years in jail. If the value of the vehicle stolen is over $65,000, an extra year can be added to the sentence; if the value is over $200,000, an extra two years can be added.

Grand Theft Auto is not the only charge that can prosecute the theft of a car. There is also the charge of Unlawfully Taking or Driving A Vehicle, otherwise known as joyriding. The differences between these two charges lie in the fact that with joyriding, it is recognized that there was never an intention to keep the vehicle, whereas there may have been in cases of Grand Theft Auto. Joyriding is a misdemeanor charge and is usually penalized by up to $5,000 in fines or up to one year in jail.

Defense in Your Grand Theft Auto Case

When accused of Grand Theft Auto in Los Angeles, you must obtain legal representation as soon as possible. These are serious charges and an experienced and skilled lawyer can make or break the outcome of your case. A common defense to these charges is owner consent, in which it’s shown that the taking of the vehicle was not against the owner’s will.

Another is no specific intent to deprive, in which it’s shown that the accused did not intend to keep the vehicle permanently and, therefore, did not act with the specific intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently.

A lawyer can help you navigate your case, your defense, and your options throughout this difficult process. It’s important you employ a lawyer that knows their way around Grand Theft Auto cases to help you achieve an optimal outcome. Contact Werksman, Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 for experienced and dedicated legal representation in your Grand Theft Auto case.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense