If you steal a car, you could face a grand theft auto charge (GTA), but you will more likely be charged with unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle. If the crime was violent, you’ll likely face carjacking and if you didn’t steal the car itself, you could face car burglary charges. In any of these cases, you need the help of a top Vista auto theft lawyer to help you fight the charges.
Grand Theft Auto Charge
Because most cars are worth more than $950, stealing a car is usually a form of grand theft, but if the car is worth under that amount, it is considered petty theft and only a misdemeanor crime. While a grand theft auto charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, prosecutors almost always charge car theft as a felony. Cars that are particularly valuable can add additional time to a sentence meaning you may face an extra year in prison for a car valued at over $65,000 or two years for a car valued at more than $200,000.
If you have been accused of grand theft auto, your Vista car theft defense attorney can help have the charges reduced if possible. In some cases, this may be through proving the vehicle was worth less than $950 or in other cases, it may mean trying to show the car was worth less than $65,000 or $200,000 in order to minimize the time you may face in prison.
Unlawful Driving or Taking of a Vehicle
While everyone has heard of a grand theft auto charge, the DA usually charges unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle instead of grand theft auto, aka joyriding. It carries the same felony punishment but without the requirement of proving the defendant actually stole the vehicle or intended to keep it. This statute covers everything from joyriding to vehicle theft and typically is charged as a felony. Since it is much easier to prove than GTA it has become the charge of choice for prosecutors in car theft cases.
Carjacking, Robbery and Auto Burglary
Many people who break into vehicles will also be charged with carjacking, robbery or auto burglary. Carjacking and robbery both involve taking a vehicle directly from someone through the use of force or fear. These charges are both always felonies and can carry a sentence of up to nine years in prison or twenty years if a weapon was used.
Auto burglary occurs when someone breaks into a locked vehicle with an intent to commit a felony, whether that means stealing the vehicle, stealing something inside the vehicle or any other felony crime. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and those convicted of felony auto burglary may result in up to three years in prison.
It is critical that anyone accused of grand theft auto contact a top Vista car theft attorney as soon as possible. Peter M. Liss may be able to have some or all of the charges dropped or reduced, but anything you say to the police could end up making things harder for you. If you have been accused of any crime related to the theft of a vehicle, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation
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