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Grand Theft Auto Lawyers

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What Is Grand Theft Auto?

Grant theft auto is the theft of a vehicle.  If you steal a car with the intent to keep the vehicle permanently, you have committed grand theft auto. For example, stealing a car for the purpose of "joyriding" is not considered grand theft auto. However, you will have committed grand theft auto if you sell any part of the stolen vehicle.

In order for defendant to be convicted of grand theft auto, the prosecutor must show that the defendant:

  1. Took or drove a vehicle
  2. The vehicle did not belong to the defendant
  3. The defendant did not have consent or permission to take or drive the vehicle
  4. The defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of possession

In most jurisdictions, grand theft is not limited to the theft of vehicles. Grand theft auto can also apply to boats, motorcycles, RVs, and campers.

How Is Grand Theft Auto Different from Carjacking?

Grand theft auto and carjacking are similar in that both involve stealing an automobile. However, the two crimes differ in terms of the manner in which a vehicle is stolen. Grand theft auto can occur without any violence at all, and often a person is not even present in the vehicle. Carjacking, on the other hand, is always a violent offense that involves the forceful taking of a car from a person. 

The defendant can be convicted of robbery if he took the vehicle from the victim’s immediate possession through force, fear, intimidation.

What Are the Likely Consequences of Grand Theft Auto?

Grand theft auto can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. Most states set a certain amount of money as the cut-off line between the two. For example, selling more than $400 worth of the vehicle in California is considered a felony.  Whether you are guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, any of the following consequences are likely:

  • Imprisonment
  • Parole or probation
  • Community service
  • Paying restitution (i.e. payment to the victim for any damage and/or loss)
  • Other fines
  • Probation

The defendant charged with grand theft auto can also be charged with other related crimes that occurred in commission of the theft. The defendant can be charged with burglary if he broke into a garage or home in order to take the vehicle and/or the defendant can be charged with robbery if the defendant used force, fear, and intimidation in the victim’s immediate possession. 

What Are the Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Auto?

The crime of grand theft auto mainly requires that the defendant did not have consent and/or permission from the owner to take and drive the vehicle and the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner. If these elements can be negated, then a defendant cannot be charged with grand theft auto.

  • Intent: If the defendant took the car and intends to return the vehicle back to the owner after use, then the defendant has not committed the crime of theft of the vehicle, but may be liable for joyriding since owner never consented to defendant to take the vehicle.
  • Consent: If the defendant received consent and/or permission from the owner to take the vehicle, then the defendant cannot be charged with grand theft auto since he did not have intent to permanently deprive owner and the owner allowed the act to occur.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

Grand theft auto is a serious automobile crime that can severely affect the rest of your life. If you are charged with grand theft auto, consult an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system. 

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 08-08-2014 03:10 PM PDT

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