California Grand Theft Auto Law

california grand auto theft gta

According to California law (Penal Code §487), grand auto theft is committed when the property taken from another person is an automobile.

There are two different offenses which have to be differed from each other in order to qualify the conduct of the offender: Grand Theft Auto (“GTA”) and “joyriding” (consisting of illegal possession and driving of a vehicle which is stated by the Vehicle Code 10851 VC).

The main difference is in the duration of keeping of the taken car. If a person has the intent to keep the stolen vehicle permanently or a substantial period of time, as well as to sell it totally or by parts, it is a GTA.

Pursuant to Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 1800, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant is guilty basing on the following facts:

  1. The defendant took possession of property owned by someone else,
  2. The defendant took the property without the owner’s (or owner’s agent’s) consent,
  3. When the defendant took the property (he/she) intended (to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner’s [or owner’s agent’s] possession for an extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property),
  4. The defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.[1]

In California, GTA is charged as a felony.

When a person is accused of GTA as a felony, he may either be sentenced up to three (3) years in state prison, or get a fine of up to $10,000[2]; or both, imprisonment and the fine.

Moreover, the legislator has previewed even more severe punishments for expensive cars. Thus, according to California law (Penal Code §12022.6) PC when any one takes, damages, or destroys any property in the commission or attempted commission of a felony (including felony grand auto theft), with the intent to cause that taking damage or destruction, the court shall impose an additional term as follows:

  • If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of one year in prison,
  • If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), in addition to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted of, the court shall impose  two more years in prison.

It has to be mentioned if a person is accused of GTA a second, or subsequent time, he may face sentencing ranging from two to four years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000[3] or both imprisonment and the fine.

The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. If you have faced accusations of Grand Theft Auto, it is essential to contact an experienced California defense attorney who is will provide legal assistance. We handle every aspect of your case, from the very start through the very last court hearing, all for a flat fee agreed upon before we begin.

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000


[2] California Penal Code 672 PC

[3] California Penal Code 672 PC

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