Grand Theft Auto

Charged with Stealing a Car?

Grand Theft Auto, also known as “GTA,” is the taking or driving of someone else’s car without the owner’s consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of car.  In plainer terms, he or she intended to steal it.  Theft of a car is always “Grand Theft Auto,” regardless of the value of the car.

In California, Grand Theft Auto is prosecuted under Penal Code section §487(d)(1).  Grand Theft Auto is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.

As a felony, the potential sentence of 16 months to three years in state prison can also be served in Los Angeles County Jail under the recent California Sentencing Guidelines (AB 109).  Whether a Grand Theft Auto charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on certain circumstances such as the method in which the car was taken, the value of the car, and the suspect’s prior criminal history, specifically auto theft convictions.

California prosecutors have an alternate method of prosecuting auto theft, other than Grand Theft Auto, and that is Vehicle Code section §10851, Unlawful Taking or Driving a Vehicle.  It is unlawful for a person to take or drive someone else’s car (or other vehicle) without the owner’s consent.  When the person does so and intends to deprive the owner of possession or ownership of the vehicle for any period of time, the crime is complete.  This type of auto theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.  The punishment for a misdemeanor is a maximum of one year in county jail and for a felony it’s up to three years in state prison.  The state prison sentence can also be served in Los Angeles County Jail under the recent California Sentencing Guidelines. If you have been arrested or charged with grand theft auto, you should contact Damian Siwek, an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, at DCS Defense to schedule a no-cost confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Grand Theft Auto PC §487(d)(1) Compared to Vehicle Theft (VC §10851)

A suspect may be charged with Vehicle Theft (Vehicle Code §10851) if that suspect took the car with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner or possessor of the car.

If the suspect took the car with the intent to permanently deprive the owner or possessor of the car, the suspect would be charged with Grand Theft Auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1).

If the suspect took the car to a chop shop where the car was to be disassembled for individual car parts and later sold, this would be evidence of the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car and Grand Theft Auto would be the appropriate charge.  Another example of the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car occurs when a suspect fails to return a car that was rented from a car rental agency such as Budget or Enterprise, until two months after the return date.  Again, Grand Theft Auto would likely be charged.

Grand Theft Auto Defenses

There are a few defenses for Grand Theft Auto, including:

  • Owner consent: a taking of the vehicle must be against the owner’s will, and consent negates that element;
  • No specific intent to deprive: if the accused did NOT intend to keep the vehicle permanently, but rather only planned to keep the vehicle temporarily, then the accused did not act with the specific intent to deprive the owner permanently.

Grand Theft Auto Defense Attorney

Being charged with Grand Theft Auto in Los Angeles is serious business.  A skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.  Any Grand Theft Auto-related conviction can have far-reaching consequences, including denial or loss of employment and professional license.  If you have been charged with or are under investigation for Grand Theft Auto, you should consult with Damian Siwek at DCS Defense for a free consultation to learn what legal options are available.

For aggressive and effective representation against grand theft auto charges, including a free confidential consultation, contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Damian Siwek at DCS Defense.