What Are the Penalties for a Grand Theft Auto Charge?

Sep 17, 2018

grand theft auto charge
What is both a fun past time and a good way to get thrown in jail for a long time? Grand Theft Auto. The video game we know and love is fun – but doing the crime in real life isn’t.
Grand theft auto, car theft, or larceny are all the same way to say one thing: stealing a car is bad news.
But if you already have a grand theft auto charge, you know that. You’re likely scared and wondering what you can do to defend yourself.
You don’t have many choices. The best option? Call a criminal defense lawyer, after you read the post below.

Grand Theft Auto Statistics

Did you know there is one type of car that gets stolen more than any others? Yes, if you own a Honda Accord, you’re the lucky winner.
Honda Accords were the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle in 2016, according to the NICB. This is thought to be due to the older models ease of entry – Honda has upped security on recent models.
The top states for GTA are California, New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, and Missouri.
But if you already have a grand theft auto charge, what does all that mean to you?
It means you aren’t alone. Criminal defense lawyers have set precedents and examples for how to defeat or lessen charges on these cases.

What Does the Law Consider “Grand Theft” Auto?

Legally, there are three tiers of severity to a grand theft auto charge. You can get a first-degree felony, which is the worst, all the way down to a third.
No felony charge is ideal, but less punishment is better than more.

Grand Theft Auto: First Degree Felony

Those charged with a first-degree grand theft auto felony charge can face up to thirty years in prison, along with a $10,000 fine. The following are considered during sentencing.

  1. Vehicle Worth
  2. Goods in Vehicle (worth)
  3. Damage to Any Property Occurs

For a first-degree felony charge to apply, the car in question needs to be worth $100,000. Or a car that’s State property. That’s why you never steal a cop car.
For the cargo, this needs to be something valued at $50,000 or more. Say you stole a minivan that had boxes of priceless antiques. The car isn’t worth $100,000 but its cargo is.
The same applies to commercial vehicles like trucks and semis.
Finally, if anyone or anything gets hurt/damaged before you’re caught, you’re on the hook for that as well. That includes the car broken into and any personal or public property.

Second Degree Grand Theft Auto

If you’re charged with a second-degree felony charge, you can expect up to 15 years of prison or probation. You’re also up for a $10,000 fine.
Like a third-degree felony, there are factors considered during sentencing.
For you to be charged with a second-degree felony the crime must fit the following.

  1. Vehicle Worth
  2. Goods in vehicle
  3. Equipment in vehicle
  4. Law enforcement equipment

The statutes for second-degree grand theft auto charges are more specific. For example, it’s considered grand theft if the property taken included medical equipment valued at $300 or more.
It also includes any technology from a cop car or authorized vehicle of the same value.
Car value wise, second degree theft covers car values from $20,000 to $100,000.

Third Degree Felony Charges

The very lowest charge for grand theft auto cases is a third-degree felony. For a third degree punishment, you’re looking at up to five years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine.
The boundaries of third-degree theft charges range from cars to large cases of fruit. But for an auto theft, the car in question needs to be worth $300 to $20,000.
Stealing 2000 or more pieces of citrus fruit falls under the same punishment, in case you wanted to know.

Defenses for Grand Theft Auto Charges

There are a few common arguments against grand theft charges. They include the following.

Lack of Intent

If the person who committed the theft didn’t do so believing they were breaking the law, that’s called a lack of intent. This can occur when someone thinks the vehicle is registered under their name or they thought they had permission to use the property.

Necessity of Durress

In very few circumstances someone can claim they stole a car out of necessity. This the idea that stealing the car was out of desperation. Imagine that you were stranded and being chased by bears.
You broke into the car for protection – that’s the level of extremity we’re talking about for those who plead duress.
If one was escaping an abusive partner and took the car to get away, that would qualify too.

Mistake of Fact

With all the elderly in Florida, this law has to exist. If you mistake your car for someone else’s and accidentally steal it, there’s a lack of intent.

What to Do in The Face of a Grand Theft Auto Charge

If you get arrested for grand theft auto in any degree, the first thing to do is cooperate with law enforcement. Resisting arrest or starting a chase will make a grand theft auto charge worse.
Second, don’t admit to anything or speak without a lawyer present. You have a right to representation.
Third, call an experienced Miami criminal defense firm. They’ll know exactly what about your case can be fought, without needing to brush up with their law textbooks.
Getting a specialist is absolutely necessary – otherwise, you could serve more time.
We are those such specialists. You can read more about the lawyers in our firm here, then request a consultation.