Grand Theft Auto | California Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC

Photo: (close up on man trying to break into a car)

In California, the legal landscape surrounding grand theft auto is uncompromising. If you find yourself accused of grand theft auto, you could potentially encounter significant legal consequences.

Grand Theft Auto Laws and Penalties in California

In California, vehicle theft can lead to charges under one of two primary statutes:

  1. Grand Theft Auto: Under Penal Code 487(d)(1), Grand Theft Auto charges are applied when there is an intention to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle.
  2. “Joyriding”: Alternatively, under Penal Code 10851 VC, the offense of “Joyriding” or Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle is typically charged when the vehicle is taken temporarily, without the intent of permanent possession.
The critical factor distinguishing these offenses is the perpetrator’s intent regarding the duration of possession. Short-term intentions, such as taking a vehicle for a brief drive, generally fall under joyriding. Conversely, intentions to permanently or long-term possess the vehicle escalate the charge to grand theft auto.

Understanding Grand Theft Auto in California

Grand theft auto, a specific category of grand theft, is charged when the stolen property is an automobile. This charge implies an intent to permanently or significantly deprive the vehicle’s owner of their property. Scenarios can range from using the stolen vehicle as a getaway car in another crime, to stealing a car for parts or resale, or even intending permanent theft but later abandoning the vehicle.

Key Elements for Grand Theft Auto Conviction

For a grand theft auto conviction under California law, the prosecution must establish that the defendant:

  1. Stole a Vehicle Belonging to Someone Else: The vehicle must be proven to be the property of another individual.
  2. Intended Permanent or Long-Term Deprivation: There must be an intention to deprive the owner of the vehicle either permanently or for a significant duration.
  3. Lacked Owner’s Permission: The vehicle’s owner did not authorize the defendant to take the vehicle.
  4. Moved and Retained the Vehicle: The defendant must have moved the vehicle and kept it for some time, regardless of the distance moved or the duration of retention.

Grand theft auto is not limited to larceny. It can also include:

  • Embezzlement: Stealing a car entrusted to you by its owner.
  • Trickery: Deceiving someone to gain possession of their car.
  • False Pretenses: Acquiring a car through lies or deceit.

Penalties for Grand Theft Auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC

Grand theft auto is a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the crime’s specifics and the defendant’s criminal history.

Felony grand theft auto carries the following penalties:

  • Jail Time: From 16 months to 3 years.
  • Fine: Up to $10,000.

Enhanced penalties apply for high-value vehicles:

  • Additional Jail Time: 1 extra year for vehicles worth over $65,000; 2 extra years for vehicles worth over $200,000.

Understanding Joyriding Charges

Joyriding, as defined under California’s Vehicle Code Section 10851, refers to the illegal act of taking or driving a vehicle without permission. This offense is considered less severe than grand theft auto. Often treated as a wobbler offense, joyriding is usually charged as a misdemeanor for first-time offenders.

If someone takes a vehicle with the intention of using it temporarily, they may be charged with joyriding rather than grand theft auto. It’s important to note that there is no specific duration for which the vehicle must be taken or driven to warrant a joyriding charge; even a very brief period can qualify.

Penalties for misdemeanor joyriding include:

  • A maximum of 1 year in jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $5,000.

For felony joyriding charges, the penalties can be more severe:

  • Jail time of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and/or
  • A fine of up to $10,000.

California Vehicle-Theft Related Offenses

In California, besides grand theft auto or joyriding, you may face charges for several other vehicle-theft related offenses:

  1. Carjacking: Penal Code 215 defines carjacking as the felonious taking of a motor vehicle from another person by force or fear. It is a felony punishable by 3, 5, or 9 years in state prison.
  2. Petty Theft: If the vehicle stolen is valued at $950 or less, it falls under petty theft, as per Penal Code 490. This is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.
  3. Burglary: As per Penal Code 461, burglary involves entering a structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony. Burglary of a vehicle could be charged if you break into a garage to steal a car. Burglary in the first degree is punishable by 2, 4, or 6 years in state prison.
  4. Auto Burglary: This involves breaking into a vehicle with the intent to commit theft or any felony. It’s treated under the general burglary statutes but specifically targets vehicles.

Explore Your Grand Theft Auto Defense Options

Charged with grand theft auto in Los Angeles? The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi are here to protect your rights. With more than 20 years of experience in both felony and misdemeanor cases, Attorney Arash Hashemi is equipped to handle your case’s complexities. Call us at (310) 448-1529 or visit our office at Westside Towers, 11845 W Olympic Blvd #520, for a consultation. We are dedicated to building a strong defense for you.

Attorney Arash Hashemi will examine various legal strategies to help avoid a conviction or lessen your charges.

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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a prediction of outcomes, as individual circumstances vary and laws may change over time. Those contemplating legal action should seek advice from a qualified attorney to understand how current laws apply to their specific situation. For detailed legal guidance on the topics discussed, please reach out to the author directly.

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