An auto theft crime is the unlawful taking of another person’s automobile. The word “automobile” includes motorcycles, cars, trucks, and other types of automobiles. In California, stealing a vehicle is called auto burglary.

How Does California Define Auto Burglary?

The state defines auto burglary as entering any vehicle using forced entry with the intent to commit a felony or larceny. Larceny is defined as either petty or grand larceny.

Can I Be Charged with a Separate Crime In Addition to Auto Burglary?

Yes, a defendant can be charged with petty/grand larceny or a felony committed after the auto burglary.

What Is Grand Larceny?

Grand larceny is taking anything valued at more than $950.

What is Petty Larceny?

Petty larceny is taking anything valued at less than $950.

What Does a Prosecutor Need to Prove to Convict Me of Auto Burglary?

A prosecutor has to prove two things: 

  • The defendant entered into a locked vehicle.
  • The defendant entered that locked vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony crime. 

Will I Receive Prison Time If Convicted of Auto Burglary?

This charge can be a misdemeanor or felony because it’s a second degree charge. Since auto burglary is a wobbler, Prosecutors have the discretion to charge a defendant with either a misdemeanor or a felony. 

A second degree misdemeanor conviction can result in up to 364 days  in county jail. If the prosecutor charges auto burglary as a second degree felony conviction, the sentence could be 16 months to three years in county jail. 

What are the Defenses to Auto Burglary I Can Use?

Specific defenses depend on the exact circumstances of the situation and lawyer’s advice. However, some general defenses include: 

  • The vehicle wasn’t locked
  • No intent to commit a felony or theft
  • No sufficient evidence the defendant committed auto burglary
  • Burglary was committed due to threats or duress
  • Victim gave consent
  • False identification 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer Regarding My Auto Burglary Case?

Yes. Contact a California criminal lawyer regarding your auto theft charge to learn more about your rights.