Grand Theft Auto
Grand theft auto is a crime that typically applies when a parked vehicle, not occupied by a driver or passenger, is taken by someone other than the owner. This serious crime carries penalties that include lengthy prison sentences and thousands of dollars in fines. However, strong legal defenses to charges of grand theft auto can help to ensure that your rights are protected and justice is served. At the Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings, we represent people facing grand theft auto charges, as well as other serious felony charges such as robbery, domestic violence, and sex crimes. As an experienced San Bernardino and Riverside County theft crimes lawyer, Mr. Comings investigates, analyzes, and sets forth appropriate defenses tailored to the facts of your case. As we strategically build your defense, we keep you informed every step of the way.Grand Theft Auto Charges According to California Law
California specifically makes clear that intentionally taking away a motor vehicle that belongs to someone else is a crime. According to Penal Code section 487(d)(1), grand theft results when the property taken is an automobile, as the crime is depriving the owner of the substantial value of the car. This act can also result in related charges under California's Vehicle Code section 10851, “Theft and Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle.”
In order for the prosecution to prove that you have committed grand theft auto, they must demonstrate that you met all elements of the crime. First, you must have taken a car that belongs to someone else, without the owner’s permission. When you took the car, you must have intended to either deprive the owner of the car permanently, or taken the car for a long enough period of time that the owner would be deprived of a substantial portion of the value or enjoyment of the car. Finally, you must have moved the car, even a minimal distance, and remained in possession of the car.
It is important to understand that there are other methods of stealing a car, such as committing the crime of using false pretenses and having the owner turn possession of the car over to you. Grand theft auto is a separate crime, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. In most cases, the degree of penalty depends on the specific facts of the case and your criminal history. However, many grand theft auto charges proceed as felony crimes, with a sentence of up to 3 years in jail and a large fine of thousands of dollars. If the vehicle is valued at or below $950, the prosecution will likely charge the crime as a misdemeanor. Alternatively, according to sentencing enhancements, if the vehicle is valued at more than $65,000, an additional year will be added to the sentence.Asserting Defenses to Fight Grand Theft Auto Charges
A skilled criminal defense attorney can often help weaken the state’s case against you for grand theft auto charges. One key element of this crime is the intent to steal, and quite simply, if you did not intend to steal the vehicle, then you cannot be guilty of grand theft. For example, if the facts show that you took the vehicle and planned to return it to the owner, then you may be guilty of the lesser crime of “joyriding,” as you did not have the intent required for grand theft auto. This may be the case if you borrowed a friend’s car, and unexpectedly remained out for a long period of time.
Investigation of the facts and a careful analysis of the methods law enforcement used to gather evidence is a critical part of your legal defense. Not only is it possible to dismiss or reduce charges based on the facts of the case, but the government’s case may be weakened through challenges to the tactics law enforcement used in gathering evidence. All defendants are afforded constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent as set forth in the Fifth Amendment, and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, made clear in the Fourth Amendment. If the police failed to obtain a search warrant when one was required, this may be a violation of your rights. In some situations police may have interrogated you without informing you of your legal rights beforehand. Any issues or potential violations of your constitutional rights can reduce or weaken the prosecution’s charges.Dedicated Theft Crimes Attorney for San Bernardino and Riverside County Residents
A knowledgeable theft crimes lawyer will be able to understand how to set forth a strong defense in your favor if you are facing charges for grand theft auto. It is advisable to retain experienced legal counsel under these circumstances because there are statutes that may be triggered if you have formerly been convicted of other crimes, and in some situations, you may face increased penalties for another theft conviction. The Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings is available to help people throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and in communities including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, Temecula, Ontario, Redlands, and Victorville as they face charges of theft, burglary, and other crimes. During the process of advocating on your behalf, we will provide a clear assessment of your options. In order to understand your legal rights and options, call our office at (951) 686-3457 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation regarding the specifics of your case.