If you are in police custody or under investigation for an alleged grand auto theft charge, you should speak with an attorney without delay to know your legal options. Also commonly abbreviated as GTA, grand theft auto is a serious crime that could ultimately ruin your reputation and career upon conviction.
Fortunately, you can increase the odds of beating the alleged criminal offense by hiring an attorney. If you have a GTA charge in Anaheim, our skilled attorneys at California Criminal Lawyer Group can help you counter the accusations for a favorable outcome.
Our qualified and dedicated attorneys will help ensure you do not miss any opportunity to have the alleged charge dropped or reduced to a lighter charge, like joyriding, which carries less severe consequences upon conviction.
Grand Theft Auto Charge Defined
According to section 487(d)(1) of the Penal Code (PC), it is an offense to take another person's motor vehicle worth $950 or more without his/her consent with the criminal intent to deprive the owner of his/her vehicle. For the sake of this statute, a "motor vehicle" could be a car, motorcycle, van, truck, recreational vehicle, boat, or moped.
Generally speaking, you violate PC 487(d)(1) when you take another person's vehicle by committing:
i. Theft by False Pretense
As the name suggests, grand theft auto by "false" pretense occurs when you convince another person to give you his/her vehicle by making false representations or promises.
ii. Theft by Trick
You commit the crime of grand theft auto by trick when you acquire another person's vehicle through trickery or deceit.
iii. Theft by Larceny
You can also violate PC 487(d)(1) by committing theft by larceny. Typically, this form of grand theft auto occurs when you take another person's vehicle without his/her permission.
The crime of GTA is charged and punishable as a wobbler offense, meaning you will face felony or misdemeanor penalties upon conviction at trial. Whether the prosecutor will pursue your case as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on the following facts:
- The value of the car in question
- Your criminal history, particularly GTA convictions
- Your unique case circumstances and facts
Investing in a skilled defense attorney is a decision you cannot regret if you are under investigation or arrest as a suspect in a GTA case. While an attorney cannot guarantee a dismissal of the case, he/she can help you build bulletproof defenses to counter the alleged GTA charge for the possible outcome.
What to Expect After an Arrest for an Alleged GTA Charge Under PC 487(d)(1)
If it is your first time being under arrest, you could be expecting a speedy turnaround around as you see on television shows. However, the reality is far different from what you expect. Here are legal procedures to expect upon an arrest on suspicion that you are a suspect in a GTA case:
1. Booking and Processing
Once you are physically detained and handcuffed, the arresting officers will take you to the sheriff or police station for an administrative procedure known as booking and processing. During this procedure, the arresting officer or the booking officer will:
- Confiscate your personal belongs, including necklaces, watches, rings, belts, and clothing
- Take your fingerprints
- Take your mugshots
- Search your body for foreign objects or illegal drugs
- Record your alleged charge
While in police custody, you should exercise your legal right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself unknowingly or mistakenly. After this procedure, the officer will detain you in the detention hall until you post bail. Bail is the amount you pay to act as an assurance or security for your freedom as the alleged charge continues.
2. Arraignment or Bail Hearing
If the alleged GTA offense has a predetermined bail amount, you could post your bail while at the station to obtain your release without unnecessary time wastage. If not, you will know your case's bail amount at the arraignment hearing, which must occur within forty-eight (48) hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after apprehension or arrest.
At this stage of the criminal court system, the judge presiding over the alleged GTA case will typically:
- Advise you of your constitutional rights, including the right to have a public defender in your corner if you do not have money to hire a private attorney
- Inform you of the nature of the alleged charge
- Ask you to enter any of the following pleas:
a) No Contest
c) Not Guilty
- Determine the ideal bail amount for the alleged GTA charge
When determining the ideal bail amount you should pay for the alleged case, the court will consider the following factors:
- Your criminal background
- The possibility of jetting out of state
- Your history of making court appearances after posting bail
- Your community and family ties
- The sophistication of the alleged offense
If you are lucky, the judge could also grant you an Own Recognizance (OR) release, meaning you do not have to burden yourself or friends to help you post bail to secure your freedom.
3. Pretrial Hearing
Most criminal charges resolve at this stage of the criminal court system through waivers, discovery issues, negotiations, plea bargains, and motions. During the pretrial hearing, your defense attorney and the prosecutor can exchange their evidence on the alleged incident through a process known as discovery.
The purpose of doing this is to determine whether or not the case is eligible to stand trial. During the discovery process, the prosecutor has the legal obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence he/she has against the evidence. Exculpatory evidence is any information that would reduce the alleged GTA charge or help prove you did not commit the crime.
A reliable attorney can keenly review the prosecutor's evidence during the discovery process to spot possible weak areas in his/her case to fight for a lighter charge or dismissal of the charge. If the prosecutor has illegal evidence against you, your attorney will have a chance to point it out at this hearing for the best possible outcome.
4. Trial Hearing
Unfortunately, if the alleged GTA charge cannot be resolved at the pretrial hearing, your defense attorney will have to fight it at trial with proper and convincing evidence. Typically, as a defendant in the criminal justice system, you are eligible for a jury trial or bench trial.
In a jury trial, you should expect 12 community members ready to listen to your case to determine whether or not the allegations are true. However, in a bench trial, a judge will act as a jury to make your case's judgment. Whether to go with a bench trial or jury trial is a problem you should leave to your attorney.
However, most defendants prefer a jury trial because the prosecutor has the burden of convincing a team of 12 jurors that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, jurors are likely to be more sympathetic to your case than a judge, meaning you will have high odds of achieving the possible outcome.
To secure a conviction against you for the alleged GTA charge under PC 487(d)(1), the prosecutor will bear the burden to prove the following facts or elements of crime in front of jurors:
- You did take the car in question
- The alleged car was worth $950 or more
- You did so without the owner's consent or permission
- You had the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently or long enough to deny him/her a significant enjoyment of it
- You did move the car, regardless of the distance
Typically, the above elements make up the legal definition of the most prevalent form of GTA, also known as grand theft auto by larceny. However, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, you can commit the offense of GTA using "false" pretenses or tricks.
If the prosecution team does not have adequate evidence to support the above facts, the jury could reduce or dismiss the alleged GTA charge. Although your attorney cannot personally introduce his/her evidence to counter the alleged charge, he/she can do so through:
- Expert testimony
- Photos and videos
- Eyewitness testimony
If the jury finds you are not guilty according to your attorney's counteractive evidence and arguments, the court will dismiss the case, and you will go free. However, if the jury finds you guilty, meaning the prosecutor's evidence is convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be convicted of the alleged GTA crime.
Unless the jury has sufficient evidence and information to determine your sentence at this hearing, you will know your sentence or punishment at the sentencing hearing.
The Sentencing Hearing
Upon conviction for PC 487(d)(1) violation, the court will decide the appropriate and fair sentence for your case at the sentencing hearing. At this proceeding, the prosecutor and your defense attorney can make a "pitch" or suggest to the jury what they believe would be the fairest sentence for your charge conviction.
Your defense attorney will first raise his/her mitigating arguments. Then, the prosecutor will raise aggravating issues to show you deserve severe punishment. After listening to both sides of the story, the jury will ultimately decide the exact sentence you deserve for the GTA charge conviction.
Potential Penalties for a Conviction for PC 487(d)(1) Violation
Generally, the crime of GTA is a form of grand theft under PC 487 and will attract the same penalties as this crime upon conviction. Even though prosecutors will often file a GTA charge as a felony, it is a wobbler offense that could attract misdemeanor penalties on rare occasions. When charged with a felony GTA charge, a conviction will carry the following penalties:
- Up to $10,000 fine
- Sixteen (16), two (2), or three (3) years jail term
However, when the prosecutor files your case as a misdemeanor, a conviction will result in the following potential punishment:
- Detention in the county jail for not more than one (1) year
- A maximum of $5,000 fine
Depending on the value or worth of the car, a conviction for the crime of GTA under PC 487(d)(1) can also attract sentence enhancement. Here is what to anticipate:
- A vehicle worth $65,000 or more will attract an extra jail term of one (1) year
- A car worth $200,000 or more will attract an additional jail term of two(2) years
It is worth noting that the above additional prison time will be consecutive to the prison sentence for the underlying GTA charge conviction. Apart from the extremely high fines and lengthy jail term, a conviction for PC 487(d)(1) violation will also reflect on your criminal record.
Unfortunately, having a criminal record can bring several negative drawbacks to your life. For instance, a criminal record can limit:
- Your odds of securing a reliable employment
- Your chances of securing a reliable housing
- Your chances of securing a professional license
An arrest does not mean you are guilty of the alleged charge. With an experienced and profound attorney in your corner, you could have the alleged GTA charge reduced or dismissed to avoid the detrimental consequences of a conviction.
Applicable Legal Defenses to Counter a Grand Theft Auto Charge at Trial
A GTA charge is a severe offense in the eyes of the court. Fortunately, there are several legal defenses a skilled attorney can use to prove your innocence. The following legal defenses could work to your advantage for a lighter charge or dismissal of the entire case:
You Did Not Have the Intent to Steal
Your attorney can counter the alleged GTA charges by arguing with proper evidence that you did not have the intent or motive to steal the vehicle in question. When this defense argument works out in your favor, the court can reduce or drop the alleged GTA charge.
The Car Was Yours
PC 487(d)(1) defines GTA as the crime of illegally taking another person's vehicle. To that end, the alleged GTA charge could end if the car in question was rightfully yours or you had a reasonable belief the car was yours. Even if the belief were incorrect, you would not be guilty of the alleged GTA if your attorney could prove you had a reasonable belief the car was yours before driving it off.
You Had the Owner's Permission
As mentioned in the previous section, you are guilty of PC 487(d)(1) violation if you did not have permission to take the car in question. Therefore, arguing that you had the owner's consent or permission could be viable to counter the accused GTA charge for the best possible outcome.
Note that this defense argument will not be applicable if the use of the car was not within the scope of the consent or agreement you had with the owner.
You are a Victim of False Accusations
Even if you are certain the allegations you are up against are untrue, you have a legal burden to prove your innocence at trial with clear and convincing evidence. Otherwise, you could end up with a wrongful conviction for a crime you did not commit.
Even lawmakers acknowledge that a person with vengeful or hateful intent could accuse you of a crime you did not commit to satisfy his/her interests. Therefore, your defense attorney can counter the alleged GTA charge by arguing that you are a victim of false accusations for the best attainable outcome.
Having an attorney in your corner can mean all the difference in the results of the alleged charge. Do not hesitate to retain the services of a skilled attorney if you are under investigation or charged with the crime of GTA to increase your odds of beating the case for the best possible verdict.
Offenses Closely Related to Grand Theft Auto Crime Under PC 487(d)(1)
Certain offenses under the penal code are closely related to the crime of GTA under PC 487(d)(1). Depending on your unique case's facts, the prosecutor could file any of the following related offenses alongside or instead of GTA:
Also known as an "unlawful taking of a vehicle," joyriding is one most common offense the prosecutor will file if he/she does not have sufficient evidence to convict you for PC 487(d)(1) violation.
According to Vehicle Code (VC) 10851, you commit the crime of joyriding when you take another person's vehicle without his/her permission to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the car. Typically, the difference between GTA and joyriding is:
- For a conviction for the offense of GTA under PC 487(d)(1), you need to have had intent to permanently steal the vehicle or keep it long enough to deprive the owner of a significant portion of enjoyment or value of it
- To secure a conviction against you for a joyriding offense under VC 10851, the prosecutor only needs to prove that you had the intent to deprive the owner of his/her car, even if it is for an hour or less
Like a GTA charge, the crime of joyriding under VC 10581 is a wobbler that can result in felony or misdemeanor penalties. When charged as a felony, a conviction for the crime of joyriding will result in:
- A maximum $10,000 fine
- Up to three (3) years jail term
However, a misdemeanor joyriding offense conviction will carry lighter penalties, including:
- Detention in the county jail for a maximum of one (1) year
- A maximum of $5,000 fine
According to PC 459, you commit the crime of auto burglary when you enter a locked vehicle with the intent to either steal property inside the car, steal the car or commit a felony offense while inside. Typically, auto burglary is a form of second-degree burglary.
When people think of burglary, they imagine a masked person breaking into a building or house to steal something valuable hidden in a safe. However, the crime of burglary also includes:
- Breaking into another person's vehicle
- Breaking into another person's vehicle to commit other felonies while inside
Second-degree burglary, including auto burglary, is a wobbler offense. A conviction can carry up to one (1) year jail term when charged as a misdemeanor. However, when charged as a felony, a conviction will carry a maximum of three (3) years in jail.
PC 215 is the statute that defines the crime of carjacking. According to this statute, it is illegal to take another person's vehicle using fear or force. For a conviction under this statute, the prosecutor must prove you had to use physical force or threats of bodily injury to take the car from the victim. For the sake of this statute, the victim could be the driver or passenger in the car.
Unlike the crime of GTA, carjacking is a felony in the eyes of the law and will count as a strike under the Three Strikes Law. A conviction for PC 215 violation will carry a maximum of nine (9) years in the state prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000. On top of this standard prison time, your prison sentence can also increase if the following is true:
- You had to use a gun
- The victim sustained an injury
- The offense was in connection with or for the benefit of a criminal gang
As you can see above, it is clear that being charged with the crime of GTA under PC 487(d)(1) or any other related offense is no joke. You will need the services of a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to represent your best interests in court and tirelessly fight for the best favorable outcome.
Find a Anaheim Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Knowing that you are innocent of the alleged charge is one thing, but proving it in court can be challenging. When charged with a severe crime like grand theft auto under PC 487(d)(1), you need a skilled defense to help you counter the charge in every phase of the prosecution process.
For many years attorneys at California Criminal Lawyer Group have served clients with exceptional legal representation at the most worrying and troubling moments of their lives. We invite you to call us at 714-766-0965 if you have a grand theft auto charge in Anaheim for the dedicated legal representation you deserve to reach the best possible results.