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Auto theft may occur in a variety of circumstances, and many states have statutes addressing various auto theft crimes based on these circumstances. One of the most common of these crimes is grand theft auto. Grand theft auto typically applies to a theft of a parked vehicle that is not occupied by a driver or passenger. While some larceny crimes are deemed “petty crimes” because of the low value of the items stolen, grand theft auto ascribes a more severe charge to a larceny crime because the item (the car) is worth so much.
Grand theft auto: Refers to stealing a vehicle, when the vehicle’s owner is not present, with the intent to permanently keep it. It is a serious auto crime, which entails driving a motor vehicle in a reckless and dangerous manner, or using the vehicle to commit another crime such as a robbery. Stealing a person’s vehicle for joyriding purposes would not be considered grand theft auto, as the intent to permanently take the vehicle is not present. However, stealing a vehicle to then sell any part of it will likely constitute grand theft auto.
A standard carjacking crime usually occurs through something like a robbery where the perpetrator uses a weapon, intimidation or force to acquire the car. The defined crime in the United States per the Justice Department is the actual or attempted theft of a vehicle by an unknown criminal element. The person committing the crime frequently will do so with a weapon, but he or she may only use intimidation that there is a weapon even if one does not exist.
It is common during the carjacking for the defendant to use a gun or injure the victim. It is also not uncommon for the theft to be for the benefit of a gang or to kidnap someone during the carjacking. When any one of these exacerbating circumstances exist, the defendant faces a maximum nine-year sentence plus enhancements that can lead to a life sentence.
The unlawful taking or use of a vehicle, or joy riding, is characterized by taking a car that is not your own without the owner’s consent with the intent to deprive the owner of use of their car either permanently or temporarily, even if for a short amount of time. You do not need to intend to steal the vehicle but rather simply deprive the owner of the use of their car.
Joyriding is taking a car without intending to keep it, as opposed to a person who steals a car (grand theft auto) and does not intend to return it to the owner. Usually, grand theft auto is a more serious crime than joyriding. Joyriding, legally referred to as the unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle, is governed by the law, which makes it illegal to permanently or temporarily take and drive a vehicle without the consent of the owner.
The three primary defenses are that the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the car or that the owner consented to the taking.
If a person takes a car but intends to return it to the owner, the person has not committed the crime of theft, only the crime of unlawful taking or driving of a car (also called joyriding). Joyriding is usually a misdemeanor and is a less serious offense than theft. If one did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the car, the crime may be simply joyriding, which is a crime itself and is prosecuted quite often, especially when intent is difficult to prove.
Consent from the owner
If it can be shown that the owner granted the defendant permission to use the car, then there is no crime. The permission must be specific to the exact incident in question. This means that just because the owner said it was okay before doesn’t mean it was okay in this specific case.
Obtaining or Using for Lawful Purpose
It is a defense to Grand Theft if the Defendant had a legal right to take or dispose of the property, or if he or she believed they had such a right, this too will serve as a defense to the charge.
Canadian Criminal Code for Motor vehicle theft states:
333.1 (1) everyone who commits theft is, if the property stolen is a motor vehicle, guilty of an offence and liable
(a) On proceedings by way of indictment, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years, and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months in the case of a third or subsequent offence under this subsection or.
(b) On summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months.
Grand theft auto is a “wobbler.” This means that the charge can be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending upon the circumstances, the value of the car and the defendant’s prior criminal record. Most commonly, it is filed as a felony as a violation of the law, however it sometimes is filed as a violation of criminal code for vehicle (unlawful taking of a vehicle, including joyriding) if the intent of the suspect appears to be to eventually return the car to the owner.
Regardless of whether the car is valued at $500 or $50,000, the theft of a car is always filed at grand theft auto. In other words, there is no such thing as “petty theft auto,” even if the value of the car is below $950, the statutory limit between grand theft and petty theft for most other items (this does not include firearms and certain farm animals).
If you have been arrested and charged with theft, then you need a good lawyer to defend you whether you have committed the crime or not. You should not give up when the prosecutor charges you with grand theft auto. The Criminal Lawyer can help you to come up with a proper defense.
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