Carjacking and Grand Theft Auto Lawyer in San Diego

San Diego Auto Theft Lawyer
California has tough laws dealing with auto theft, especially carjacking (auto theft involving the threat or use of force).  Cars are valuable property and are frequently left unattended by their owners.  While law enforcement efforts to recover stolen vehicles have greatly improved, auto thefts are still a common crime in San Diego.  Information about other theft crimes.

GRAND THEFT AUTO  -  PC 487(d)(1)
The term Grand Theft Auto has become widespread due to its popularity in movies and video games.  California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) makes it a crime to take another person's vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner.  Automobile thefts are a common crime in Southern California.  With San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican border, stolen cars are often driven across the border, where they can be resold or used for parts.  Additionally, cars can be stolen for use in other crimes ("getaway" vehicle).  Due to the value of most automobiles, grand theft auto is usually a felony, though due to Prop 47, theft of a vehicle valued at less than $950 will be a misdemeanor for most defendants.  Frequently, the wrong individuals are charged with auto theft offenses.  Drivers may not know that a vehicle was stolen, or may believe that they have the owner's consent.  Sometimes these misunderstandings are easy to clear up, but other times felony charges are filed.

California Penal Code Section 215 makes it a felony to take a vehicle from the immediate presence of another person using force or fear.  Carjacking may require less technical skill than auto theft because the owner typically has car keys.  Carjacking is a "strike" offense and punishable by up to 9 years in California State Prison (85% time).  Additionally, carjacking charges will often include additional serious felony charges, including robbery, kidnapping, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats and more.  Use of a knife or firearm or injuring someone during the commission of the crime will also lead to significantly enhanced penalties.  Moreover, gang enhancements can lead to even longer prison sentences in felony cases.  Carjacking, like most crimes, has a wide range of possible defenses, including mistaken identity, false accusations, lack of force or fear, and that the vehicle was not taken from the owner's immediate presence.  Unlike grand theft auto, carjacking is not subject to reduction to a misdemeanor for vehicles valued under $950; taking a worthless vehicle by force or fear will still be a felony and a strike, punishable by a long term in prison.

Burglary is entering a structure or vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or any other felony upon entry.  Auto burglary is second degree burglary, a wobbler.  Breaking into a car to steal a radio, for example, is auto burglary.  Stealing a car from inside a garage can be charged as a first degree (residential) burglary if the garage is attached and functionally connected to the inhabited portion of a home.  Breaking into a car to steal the car, but then failing to actually steal the vehicle will also likely result in auto burglary charges.  Auto burglary can be punishable by county jail or state prison, depending on the defendant's record and the severity of the crime.

Taking the vehicle of another with the intent to use it temporarily may not be enough to sustain a conviction for grand theft.  Due to the burden of proving each element of a crime resting on the government, there may be insufficient evidence to prove that a defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of a vehicle.  While Grand Theft Auto is almost always charged as a felony, even for first offenses, a first charge for joyriding (absent additional crimes involved) will typically be charged as a misdemeanor.

Auto theft-related charges are very serious and require an aggressive defense.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a car theft offense in San Diego, you need a passionate, aggressive and knowledgeable attorney on your side to fight for you.  Contact San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Nicholas Loncar for a free consultation.  619-930-9515.

Nicholas M. Loncar, Esq.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
t: 619-930-9515
f: 619-930-9516


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