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Los Angeles Grand Theft Auto Lawyer

Charged with Stealing a Car?

Grand Theft Auto, also known as "GTA," is the taking or driving of someone else's car without the owner's consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of car; in other words, he or she intended to steal it. Theft of a car is always "Grand Theft Auto," regardless of the value of the car.

In California, Grand Theft Auto is prosecuted under Penal Code section 487(d)(1). Grand Theft Auto is a "wobbler," meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. As a felony, the potential sentence of 16 months to three years in state prison can also be served in Los Angeles County Jail under the recent California Sentencing Guidelines. Whether a Grand Theft Auto charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on certain circumstances such as the method in which the car was taken, the value of the car, and the suspect's prior criminal history, specifically auto theft convictions.

California prosecutors have an alternate method of prosecuting auto theft, other than Grand Theft Auto, and that is Vehicle Code section 10851, Unlawful Taking or Driving a Vehicle. It is unlawful for a person to take or drive someone else's car (or another vehicle) without the owner's consent.

When the person does so and intends to deprive the owner of possession or ownership of the vehicle for any period of time, the crime is complete. This type of auto theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The punishment for a misdemeanor is a maximum of one year in county jail and up to three years in state prison if a felony. The state prison sentence can also be served in Los Angeles County Jail under the recent California Sentencing Guidelines.

Grand Theft Auto Compared to Vehicle Theft

A suspect may be charged with Vehicle Theft (Vehicle Code 10851) if that suspect took the car with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner or possessor of the car.

If the suspect took the car with the intent to permanently deprive the owner or possessor of the car, the suspect would be charged with Grand Theft Auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1).

If the suspect took the car to a chop shop where the car was to be disassembled for individual car parts and later sold, this would be evidence of the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car and Grand Theft Auto would be the appropriate charge.

Another example of the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car occurs when a suspect fails to return a car that was rented from a car rental agency such as Hertz or Avis, until two months after the return date. Again, Grand Theft Auto would likely be charged.

Grand Theft Auto Defenses

There are a few defenses for Grand Theft Auto, including:

  • Owner consent: a taking of the vehicle must be against the owner's will, and consent negates that element;
  • No specific intent to deprive: if the accused did NOT intend to keep the car (vehicle) permanently, but rather only planned to keep the vehicle temporarily, then the accused did not act with the specific intent to deprive the owner permanently.

Grand Theft Auto Defense Attorneys

Being charged with Grand Theft Auto in Los Angeles is serious business. A skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Any Grand Theft Auto-related conviction can have far-reaching consequences, including denial or loss of employment and professional license.

If you have been charged with or are under investigation for a theft crime, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn what legal options are available. Attorneys Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have extensive experience in defending these types of cases. We are aggressive attorneys who will fight your case.

For your protection, do not talk to anyone about your case, until you have spoken with a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. Call our office and arrange for a free consultation to discuss the specific facts of your case.

When accused or arrested for grand theft auto, immediately contact a Los Angeles grand theft auto defense lawyer for aggressive legal representation. Initial consultations are free.

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