Crimes of theft have been around for hundreds of years to include the greater crimes of stealing large or expensive property and possessions. However, laws have become harsh when expensive vehicles are stolen by alleged thieves who are guilty of an indictable offence and are liable to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment (s. 331.1(a), Criminal Code); or on summary conviction, to a maximum of 18 months imprisonment (s. 331.1(1)b), Criminal Code).
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.
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 law, however it sometimes is filed as a violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (unlawful taking of a vehicle, including joyriding) if the intent of the suspect appears to be to eventually return the car to the owner.
Carjacking and grand theft auto both involve taking possession of a vehicle from its true owner. That’s why it’s easy to confuse these two crimes. However, these criminal acts are actually very different.
A carjacking occurs when the vehicle is taken directly from the owner or driver of the car. Typically, as in a robbery, violence or the threat of violence is used to steal the car from another. Some states consider carjacking to occur even when a victim is not near their car, but is threatened or forced to hand over their keys.
Joy riding – When someone steals a car and takes it for a ride, he or she commits joyriding. This is usually a victimless crime where the owner is not even aware of anything happening until trying to find the car. Some of these crimes go completely unnoticed because the joyrider will take the car back before the owner knows that the vehicle was taken at all. If the owner grants permission, this is usually not a crime.
In order to prove that grand theft auto has occurred, a prosecutor must show that the defendant took a vehicle that belonged to someone else with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle.
The following elements must be present for an individual to be convicted of grand theft auto:
With the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, you can fight grand theft charges. Your criminal lawyer can negotiate to have the prosecutor reduce your charges to a lesser offense. Some of the typical legal defenses include:
Lack of intent – In order to be convicted of grand theft auto, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to steal the vehicle. If you mistakenly stole or acquired the car or did not intend to steal it, this may be a useful defense in your case. This defense does not work in cases of joyriding, however, as the offense is not defined by an intent to steal the vehicle.
Claim of right – One of the common legal defenses that apply in grand theft cases is a claim of right. If the vehicle that you were operating was yours, you might not be guilty of grand theft auto or illegal taking of a car. Also, grand theft charges or unlawful taking of vehicle charges cannot apply if you believed that the vehicle in question was yours. Therefore, your lawyer can outline that you had a good faith belief of being the actual owner of the vehicle.
Consent from the Owner – This can be a tough defense to assert because the owner is most often the person who calls police to begin the case. Usually, the police, before going to the trouble of investigating further, make sure that the owner’s permission was never given for the client to take the car.
False accusation – You can fight grand theft auto by pointing out that you were falsely accused, but you did not commit the crime of grand theft auto, it is common for people to blame others falsely for the crime of grand auto theft and joyriding.
The penalties for Grand Theft Auto vary depending on the type of charge, past criminal record, and circumstances of the case. These criminal punishments are not the only implications of Grand Theft Auto. Many collateral consequences exist for any conviction, such as reevaluated immigration status, tarnished reputation, and gaining a criminal record.
Grand Theft Auto is a felony and may be punished by:
If you or a loved one has been accused of vehicle-related theft, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Some of these charges may be targeted at an innocent person. It is vital to obtain a lawyer versed in criminal defense involving automobiles to build a defense early. An experienced attorney can explain your legal rights to you, as well as your state’s specific laws regarding grand theft auto. Finally, they can represent you in court at any necessary hearings.
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