In California, grand theft is the unlawful taking of someone else’s property under Penal Code 487, which also covers grand theft auto. In the case of grand theft auto, somebody steals another person’s vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. In California, this can also sometimes be known as joyriding if the intentions are temporary, which will often be charged as a lesser crime.
In California, the two defenses that you can use in a grand theft auto case are intent and consent. If you intended to return the car to its rightful owner, then you have only committed the lesser crime of theft and unlawful taking. In the case of consent, if an owner has consented to you driving the vehicle, there is no crime. However, you will typically have to show proof of such an event. One way to show this defense to the court is if you have text messages outlining where and when you can take the vehicle.
In many cases, the penalties to this crime will vary. It really depends on whether or not you received a felony or misdemeanor punishment – because either could occur. You could spend years in prison as well as owe thousands in fines for this crime. California is also a state that has provisions in place for enhancing the penalties of this crime depending on the circumstances of how it occurred. For instance, if the vehicle in question was a police car, then you will automatically receive a felony for your crime. Your criminal history will also determine the penalties you will receive.
In any event, if you have been charged with vehicle theft, you must speak to a defense attorney about how they can help you. At The Law Office of Peter Blair, we are there for you in your time of need. Give us a call today to set up an appointment to speak with us directly.