Grand theft auto charges are covered under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), which is a type of grand theft crime.
It's commonly known as “GTA,” and is generally described as taking someone's vehicle without their consent with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.
In other words, it's stealing somebody's car with the intent to keep it permanently. GTA is a “wobbler,” meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor has the discretion to file either a misdemeanor or felony charge.
A prosecutor will typically base their decision on the specific circumstances, value of the vehicle, and your criminal history.
However, it should be noted that GTA is normally charged as a felony crime. In some cases, auto theft charges can be filed under different offenses depending on the details of the case.
For example, under California Vehicle Code section 10851, the unlawful taking of a vehicle ( known as “joyriding”), it's unlawful to take or drive another person's vehicle without the owner's consent, when you intend to deprive the owner of possession for any period of time.
The main difference between GTA and joyriding is exactly how long you intended to keep the vehicle.
If your intent was to permanently keep the vehicle you stole, you will be charged with grand theft auto, in violation of Penal Code Section 487(d)(1).
In contrast, if your intent were just to drive the car around for a little while, you will normally face charges for joyriding, in violation of VC 10851.
Additionally, in some cases, the prosecutor might even charge you with receiving stolen property, in violation of California Penal Code Section 496.
A common example in Los Angeles County where you would face grand theft auto charges includes a situation where your steal someone's vehicle with the intent to sell it to another person, but change your mind and just abandon it.
Since your intent was to permanently deprive the owner possession of their car, this would be considered GTA.
As you can see, the key word above that a prosecutor has to prove is “intent” to either permanently or temporarily take the vehicle from the owner.
If you have been accused of grant theft auto, in violation of PC 487(d)(1), you need to contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP to review.
Let's take a more thorough look at the legal definitions, penalties, and defenses below.
Legal Definition of Grand Theft Auto
California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) describes grand theft auto as a theft of an automobile involving specific elements of the crime.
In order to convict you of GTA, the Los Angeles County prosecutor must be able to prove each and every element. These elements include:
- You took a vehicle owned by another person;
- You didn't have permission from the owner to take the vehicle;
- The vehicle was valued at $950, or more;
- Your intent was to permanently deprive the owner from possession
As stated above, the prosecutor must prove that you took another person's vehicle without the consent of the owner and with the intent to permanently deprive them possession of the vehicle. In other words, they have to be able to prove your intent or what exactly were you thinking when you took the vehicle.
In Los Angeles County, a common example where the prosecutor could prove intent includes a situation where you took a vehicle to a chop shop to be disassembled for car parts and sold later.
This example would certainly prove the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, and grand theft auto, under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), would be the appropriate charge.
For GTA charges, you need to have intent to steal the vehicle permanently, or for at least long enough, to deprive the owner of significant enjoyment of the car.
It should be noted that in other situations, it could be difficult for a prosecutor to prove exact intent. For more detailed information, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our law firm.
Related Grand Theft Auto Offenses
As stated above, there are several related offenses to grand theft auto under PC 487(d)(1). These include:
- California Vehicle Code 10851 – Unlawful Taking of a Vehicle
- California Vehicle Code 10852 - Tampering with a Vehicle
- California Vehicle Code 2800.2 - Felony Reckless Evading
- California Penal Code Section 496 – Receiving Stolen property
- California Penal Code Section 459 – Auto Burglary
- California Penal Code Section 215 – Carjacking
- California Penal Code Section 212 - Fear in Robbery
- California Vehicle Code 10801 - Operating a Chop Shop
These offenses above are options for the Los Angeles County prosecutor based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Legal Penalties for Grand Theft Auto
Grand theft auto under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) is a “wobbler.” The prosecutor will typically decide to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony based of the circumstances of the offense, and your criminal background.
A misdemeanor conviction will carry a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
However, as stated above, GTA will most often be filed as a felony crime. If you are convicted of a felony case of grand theft auto, the legal penalties include 16 months to 3 years in a Los Angeles County Jail or California state prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
There are also legal penalty enhancements for high-value vehicles.
Legal Defense for Grand Theft Auto
There are several effective legal strategies our criminal attorneys could use in your defense against charges of grand theft auto, under Penal Code Section 487(d)(1). Every case is unique and requires a close review of all the specific details in order to determine the appropriate strategy.
The most common legal defenses include:
Lack of intent – As explained above, the key element of the crime for a prosecutor to prove for GTA is that your intent was to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. Our criminal lawyers might be able to argue you did not intend to keep the vehicle permanently or even steal the vehicle.
For example, when you have another person's car without their consent, we might be able to convince the prosecutor they don't have sufficient evidence to prove intent. If we are successful, we might be able to get the charges reduced to misdemeanor joyriding offense, under California Vehicle Code 10851, which carries significant lesser penalties.
Consent – In some cases, our attorneys might be able to make an argument that you had a reasonable belief you had consent to take the vehicle. For example, you might have been initially given permission to take the vehicle, but there was a misunderstanding on how long you could keep the car.
If we can cast doubt that the vehicle was taken without permission, you probably won't be convicted of grand theft auto.
False accusation – In certain situations, our lawyers might be able to show that the GTA allegations against you are simply false.
For example, it might be possible to prove that your ex-spouse gave you permission to drive their vehicle, then attempted to claim they did not give you permission in an attempt to have charges filed against you our of anger, jealously, or to use in child custody battle.
Contact our Los Angeles Criminal Law Firm
A conviction for grand theft auto, in violation of California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), can result in life-changing consequences.
Therefore, if you have been accused of auto theft, call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately.
Our law firm has decades of experience defending clients against these types of crimes, and might be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Contact us at 877-781-1570.