Grand Theft Auto

California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) – Grand Theft Auto

The crime of grand theft auto is described in California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1). It’s commonly known as “GTA” and simply defined as intentionally taking a vehicle belonging to another person. A criminal charge of grand theft auto often results is in an additional charge of “joyriding” under California Vehicle Code Section 10851, but typically depends on the length of time you intended to keep possession of the vehicle. Clearly, GTA is a common crime throughout Los Angeles County and aggressively prosecuted. Grand theft auto is a “wobbler” offense, meaning the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.

A common example of GTA occurs when someone steals a vehicle in order to use it as a getaway car to commit another crime. Another example includes a situation where someone steals a car in order to sell it for parts.

If you have been accused of grand theft auto under Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), you need to consult with our experienced California criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group. We have a track record of success and will aggressively fight for the best possible outcome on your case. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of the crime, penalties, related offenses, and defenses below.

Elements of the Crime – Grand Theft Auto

California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) grand theft auto includes several elements of the crime. This means the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove each and every factor, beyond a reasonable doubt, to obtain a conviction. The elements are described under CALCRIM 1820 and include the following:

  • You took a vehicle that belonged to another person
  • You didn’t have consent from the owner to take the vehicle
  • The value of the vehicle was $950 or more
  • When you took possession of the vehicle, your intent was either:
  • To permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, or
  • Take the vehicle from the owner long enough they would be deprived a substantial portion of the enjoyment or having it, and
  • You moved the vehicle, even a short distance, and kept it for some period of time

It’s important to note there are other ways where someone can steal a vehicle other than just the typical method. For example, there is grand theft by “trick” or “false pretenses” to convince the owner to give you possession of the vehicle. There is also using “embezzlement” to take a vehicle that was entrusted to you by the owner because of an established relationship of trust.

Legal Penalties for Grand Theft Auto

As stated above, California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) grand theft auto is a “wobbler” crime, meaning the case can be filed as either a misdemeanor of felony offense. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will typically base their decision on the specific circumstances of the case and your criminal history, but most cases are filed as a felony. If you are convicted of GTA as a misdemeanor, you will face up to one year in county jail, fines, and probation.

If you are convicted of a felony case of grand theft auto, the legal penalties include 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail, a fine up to $10,000, or both fine and jail.

There is also a penalty enhancement for high-value vehicles. For example, you could receive an additional one year in jail if the value of the car you stole was worth $65,000 or more. Also, you could receive an additional two years if the value of the vehicle is worth $200,000 or more.

Related Offenses for Grand Theft Auto

California Vehicle Code Section 10851 – Joyriding
California Penal Code Section 215 – Carjacking
California Penal Code Section 459 – Auto Burglary
California Penal Code Section 496 – Receiving Stolen Property
California Penal Code Section 484(a) – Petty Theft

Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Auto

If you have been accused of grand theft auto in violation of California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a wide range of legal defense strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. The first step is a close review of the specific details of your case. However, the most common defenses include the following:

Lack of intent – As stated in the elements of the crime above, the prosecutor has to be able to prove you had intent to steal the vehicle. In fact, intent is the most crucial element and a frequent target of attack by experienced lawyers. Perhaps we could negotiate with the prosecutor they are unable to prove intent beyond reasonable doubt and reduce the charges to a lesser offense of joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851.

Consent – In some cases, we might be able to argue you had a reasonable belief the owner gave you permission to take the vehicle. Perhaps the vehicle owner gave you consent to borrow their vehicle but didn’t agree to an exact time to return it. Perhaps we could argue there was a misunderstanding and you believed you had consent, but had no intent to steal it.

Belief of ownership – In certain circumstances, we might be able to make an argument you had a reasonable belief, even though it was later shown to be mistaken, the vehicle belonged to you. This is commonly known as the “claim of right” defense. If we could cast doubt on this important factor, you might be able to avoid a conviction or have the charges reduced to a lesser offense. This strategy is to show a good faith belief and your intent was not to steal the vehicle. Rather, you though the vehicle rightfully belonged to you. For example, perhaps you had recently purchased the car and did not know it was stolen.

False Accusation – In some cases, we may be able to prove you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity. Perhaps you were given permission to use the vehicle, but then accused of stealing it from an owner with other motives, such as anger or revenge.

Contact Our Criminal Law Firm for Help

If you are facing allegations of grand theft auto under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), you could face harsh life-altering legal consequences. Early intervention into your case by our skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Let us review the details to start planning a strategy to fight your charges. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact us at 323-461-2000.