Should you have the urge to take another person’s vehicle without their express permission, be aware you could be charged with grand theft auto. There are many levels of grand theft auto, all the way from the premeditated taking of the automobile of another to the act of joyriding with the intent of returning the car. In some states, simply being in a car you are aware is stolen could also result in grand theft auto charges. In most states the vehicle taken or “borrowed,” must have a minimal worth such as $300 or $400 in order for the more serious charges of grand theft auto to be brought.
Most all states consider taking a vehicle a felony, although should you possess a perfectly clean record or are a juvenile you might slide by with a misdemeanor charge. Should you be convicted of grand theft auto it is likely you will spend some time in jail or even in prison, possibly even longer than a year. Serious fines, driver’s license suspension, community service, large fees and fines and probation can result from a conviction of grand theft auto. Successive convictions for this offense will end up in more severe penalties and in “three-strike” states the stakes are especially high should your charges result in a conviction.
Defenses to Grand Theft Auto
Even your first felony conviction can have far-reaching consequences, making you ineligible for certain jobs or professions, making it difficult for you to rent or buy a home, obtain a government loan for higher education or housing and causing you to be unable to obtain a professional license you may have worked long and hard for. Being charged with grand theft auto is extremely serious, and there are few defenses other than owner’s consent and intent. If your attorney can show you had consent from the owner to take the car and never intended to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle, then the prosecutor may not be able to charge you with grand theft auto.
Moreover, in order for the prosecutor to definitively prove charges of grand theft auto against you, he or she must be able to show intent on your part to permanentlydeprive the owner of their vehicle, however further charges can be tacked on under certain circumstances. For instance if you broke into the car in order to take it, you could also be charged with auto burglary. If you broke into a garage to take the car, you could be charged with burglary and if you used force or the threat of violence against the owner in order to take the car you could be charged with robbery or carjacking.
Your criminal defense attorney might be able to have your charges lessened to Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle (also known as joyriding) which carries much less severe punishments. Your attorney might also be able to show that improper police procedures were used at the time of your arrest in order to have your charges of grand theft auto reduced or even dismissed. Retaining a knowledgeable attorney is your number one priority once you have been charged with grand theft auto in order to get the help you need.