Grand theft auto, the charge associated with stealing an automobile, is considered a felony in most states. While other theft crimes are divided into petty and grand theft depending on the value of the stolen property, the stealing of a vehicle is taken more seriously.
This is true even when the value of the vehicle is very little. Defendants may also face more severe penalties if the value exceeds $60,000 or $200,000. These thresholds can increase a prison sentence by 1 or 2 years.
If you’ve been accused of grand theft auto, you have options. First and foremost, get in contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Never underestimate the importance of representation when fighting such a serious charge. Every defendant has a story to tell, and the right lawyer will ensure your story is told correctly.
Below, we’ve listed some of the legal ramifications and defense strategies often associated with grand theft auto charges:
Requirements for Conviction
In order for a prosecutor to convict a person of grand theft auto, several items must be shown:
- First, that the defendant took or drove the vehicle
- Second, that the vehicle belonged to someone else
- Third, that the defendant intended to permanently keep the vehicle from its owner
To prove these things, the prosecutor will need to show the vehicle was in your possession through photos or witnesses, submit the official deed to the court proving the vehicle did not belong to you, and prove that you never intended to return the vehicle.
The first major defense against a grand theft auto charge is based on intent. If your criminal defense attorney can prove you intended to return the vehicle, the charges may be significantly altered, leading to a lesser sentence and possible misdemeanor charges.
The second major defense is based on consent. If the owner of the vehicle consented to your taking it, no crime has been committed. However, you must prove the owner consented for this particular ride – having consent to drive the vehicle in the past isn’t enough.
The third, and least often used, defense against a grand theft auto charge is based on circumstance. If you feared physical harm, loss of property, or the physical harm of someone else, and thus needed the vehicle for a pressing circumstance, your charges may be changed or your sentencing may be lighter.
Punishment and Long-Term Consequences
The final punishment for grand theft auto depends on state guidelines, the circumstances under which the crime was committed, and whether you have previous convictions. You may be punished by imprisonment, repayment for damage, a general fine, probation, or a mixture of these.
Typically speaking, the stronger your defense, the lighter your sentencing. It’s essential that you communicate with a criminal defense lawyer before entering a plea or taking legal steps of your own. After all, you only get to make your case once.
Contact the Elden Law Group
If you’ve been charged with grand theft auto, contact an experienced attorney at Elden Law Group by calling (800) 455-6200. Our team specializes in building a strong defense and fighting for fair, reasonable sentencing.