Auto Theft

San Diego Auto Theft Attorney

A San Diego auto theft attorney can provide legal counsel if you have been charged with either a misdemeanor or felony vehicle theft charge in California. In short, auto theft crime involves stealing another person’s vehicle. It is legally defined as an individual who has unlawfully taken or driven a vehicle that belongs to another person without the owner’s consent and with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

Each car theft case is unique because details and subsequent charges vary. There are many factors that are considered when deciding what a person is charged with for this type of crime. For example, in some states, auto theft may be referred to as joyriding and is considered a less serious crime, but in California grand theft auto and joyriding both carry the same possible punishment. The main difference between the charges depends on the temporary or permanent taking of the vehicle.

If the vehicle stolen is an ambulance, fire truck, or marked police vehicle, the punishment for the crime is more severe. Additionally, if the vehicle that is taken is an expensive model worth more than $65,000, then the penalty can mean an additional year of prison and two additional years if the vehicle was more than $200,000.

It’s important for your attorney to know all the details pertaining to your case in order to provide the best possible legal defense. You want a truck or auto theft lawyer who is knowledgeable in this type of criminal law and is familiar with the San Diego court system.

Criminal defense attorney Stephen Cline more than two decades of legal experience as a grand theft auto attorney. His dedicated approach to defending his clients has secured successful verdicts over the years for car theft and other related charges.

What Is Grand Theft Auto under California’s Penal Code 4871d1 PC

Grand theft in California applies when the worth of items taken is more than $950. When the property taken is an automobile, this constitutes grand theft auto under CA penal code 4871d1. For a stolen vehicle, California law states it must be worth more than $400.

Auto theft is often charged as a felony under Vehicle Code Section 10851 VC, but in some cases, it can be charged as a misdemeanor. If you’ve been charged with grand theft auto in San Diego, the potential punishment for the crime will depend on the severity of the charge and if you’ve been convicted of a similar crime previously. By hiring a grand theft auto attorney, you have a better chance of a lesser sentence or not guilty verdict than if you were to handle the case alone.

CA Grand Theft Auto by Larceny

A person can also be charged with grand theft auto in CA, if the person lies, is deceitful or tricks someone in order to gain ownership of a car that doesn’t belong to them. This is referred to as grand theft auto by larceny.

Luring someone to give you keys or access to their vehicle under the false pretense that you will return it falls into this category of crime. Even though a person may have given you the car with their permission, if it was obtained by trick, then you can be charged with such a crime.

In general, when there is theft of another person’s property, the crime committed is larceny and it will be charged depending on the value of the stolen items and the manner in which it was taken.

How Is Grand Theft Auto Different from Carjacking?

Carjacking involves illegally taking an automobile from its owner by act of violence or serious threat, such as holding a driver at gunpoint. This type of crime is considered more severe than grand theft auto and can carry a harsher sentence. In the case of carjacking, it doesn’t matter if the person taking the car intends to do so temporarily or permanently. It’s the action of the crime that differentiates it from grand theft auto.

Carjacking is considered a felony and is punishable by a prison sentence for up to nine years, if a guilty verdict is returned. Additionally, if a person receives a second felony conviction for grand theft auto, it would be counted as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.

The Three Strikes Law was created to prevent “habitual offenders.” For any person convicted of three violent felonies in the state of California, that person can receive a maximum prison sentence of 25 years to life. Not every conviction is listed as a strike, but any current strikes against you will affect your sentencing if there is a guilty verdict and may result in a lifetime spent in prison.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Auto?

There is no standard defense against a car theft charge, but there are two that tend to be more applicable. The first involves lack of intent. A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a grand auto theft crime has been committed by confirming the person charged:

  • did not own the vehicle
  • drove or took a vehicle without the owner’s consent
  • had the specific intention to deprive the owner of the title or possession of the vehicle

The “intent to steal” is part of the legal definition of grand theft auto and must be proven by the prosecution with sufficient evidence to support that finding. Lack of proven intention of the crime can be used as a possible defense in order to have the charge dismissed.

The prosecution must also prove that the person accused of grand theft auto did not have the owner’s consent to drive or take the car. There are scenarios where intention or consent will be used as viable defenses because without one or the other, a car theft crime not be upheld.

Additionally, if you have been wrongly accused or identified as a suspect in an auto theft crime, it’s important that you exercise your legal rights. Prosecution of any type of case involves proven evidence, including putting the accused at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.

Punishment for Grand Theft Auto in San Diego

Grand theft auto can be charged as a misdemeanor felony and a felony can result in up three years in local prison. Other consequences of being convicted of a grand theft auto crime can include probation, community service and paying restitution to the victim for any damages or loss.

Like any crime, the punishment for grand theft auto in San Diego is dependent on a variety of factors. Potential factors that are considered when determining a punishment for grand theft auto include any associated charges, prior criminal record, where the crime took place and what, if any, weapons were used.

It’s important to give your attorney the full details of your case so that he or she can piece together a strategic defense for the crime you’ve been charged with committing. A car theft attorney can also account for proper procedures and protocol being upheld regarding your arrest and your legal rights.

Hiring a San Diego Auto Theft Attorney

There are specific California laws that may differ from other states when it comes to theft crime. Each state has its own codes and statutes to follow. It’s important to have a lawyer who not only has expertise in handling this type of theft law, but also has the experience of working within the state’s court system.

Being convicted of a grand auto theft crime can have a negative impact on the rest of your life. It can cost you thousands of dollars in fines, years spent in prison and also could prevent you from being gainfully employed in the future. You want to discuss your legal options with an attorney who is ready to aggressively defend you against prosecution. A private attorney has the legal resources available to prepare your case for court and give it the attention it deserves.

It’s best to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with grand theft auto. You will want to seek counsel regarding the best way to proceed. Contact our law firm for your free case evaluation. Stephen Cline is a San Diego attorney focused on handling all types of criminal cases, including grand theft auto, for the past 20 years and has achieved successful verdicts in all areas of criminal defense.