Penalties for Auto Theft

Depending on the circumstances of the case, auto theft may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felon. The crime of “theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle” is included in the California Vehicle Code and is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

If, on the other hand, you are charged with Grand Theft Auto (which is included in the Penal Code as a felony), you can be sentenced to prison. The severity of the sentence for this crime depends on the value of the vehicle; stealing an old, beat up car is not punished as harshly as stealing a luxury automobile or a new sports car.

Understanding Intent in Auto Theft Cases

The factor that determines whether you are charged of the lesser or the greater offense is essentially one of intent. If you had the purpose of actually stealing the vehicle, you will most likely be charged with Grand Theft Auto. If, on the other hand, you were merely joyriding, you will most likely be charged with the misdemeanor offense. In some cases the goal of the defense is to have the charge reduced from the felony to the misdemeanor, though in others it is possible to have the charges dismissed or to obtain a full acquittal.

Newport Beach, Orange County, California

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