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Auto Theft

Auto Theft Defense Attorney in San Diego

A Proven Criminal Defense Team Fighting for Your Rights

Property crimes and theft are a big priority for local law enforcement, and high atop their list is auto theft. Though these crimes can range in their specific facts and circumstances, vehicle-related theft crimes are typically very serious charges with the potential to powerfully impact your future. They’re crimes that demand the attention of experienced defense attorneys.

At Premier Criminal Defense, our legal team defends clients against all types of theft crime and vehicle-related allegations, from misdemeanors to the most serious felonies. If you or someone you love has recently been charged with auto theft or any other related crime, we encourage you to act now to secure the defense and representation you need.

Why Premier Criminal Defense?

  • Aggressive, Affordable Defense & Strategic Solutions
  • Over 17 Years of Experience in Criminal Law
  • Led By a Former Criminal Prosecutor
  • 24/7 Availability & Personalized Attention

We fight for the rights, freedoms, and futures of our clients. Find out how we can fight for you by calling (619) 374-1268 or contacting us online for a free and confidential consultation.

Auto Theft Crimes in California

California’s Penal Code has several crimes which can be classified as forms of “auto theft.” Our team has the experience to defend clients against all types of theft crimes involving motor vehicles, including:

  • Grand Theft Auto: PC 487(d)(1) – California Penal Code 487(d)(1) is grand theft auto (GTA), an offense which is classified as a form of grand theft, meaning it involves property valued at more than $950. As opposed to petty theft, which includes offenses like shoplifting, grand theft is often prosecuted as a felony. Potential penalties include up to 1 year in county jail for a misdemeanor, and up to 3 years in state prison for felonies. Defendants can challenge prosecutors on key elements needed to prove the crime, including the value of the vehicle, the lack of consent or permission, and the intent to deprive the owner of their vehicle permanently or for a substantial amount of time. Due to the severity of GTA charges and penalties, it is common to seek reductions to misdemeanors and / or charges involving “unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle” rather than grand theft.
  • Unlawful Taking of a Vehicle / Joyriding: VC 10851 – California Vehicle Code 10851, often referred to as joyriding, involves the unlawful driving or taking of a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. This offense is distinct from GTA primarily in terms of the amount of time a person intended to keep the vehicle; possessing a vehicle for an extended period of time or with the specific intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently is likely to result in GTA charges. Short-term possession makes joyriding a more likely allegation. The crime is a wobbler and may be charged as a misdemeanor (punishable by a year in jail), or a felony (punishable by up to three years). A separate statute, PC 499b, prohibits joyriding involving a bicycle or boat.
  • Carjacking: PC 215 – California’s carjacking law (Penal Code 215) is an offense that also involves the unlawful and non-consensual taking of another’s vehicle. However, it also requires prosecutors to prove the person who took the vehicle did so through the use of force or fear (i.e. actually used physical force against a victim, or threatened in a manner which caused them to reasonably fear physical harm). Regardless of whether the alleged victim was a driver, a passenger, or did not even own the vehicle, the use of force or fear can still invoke carjacking charges, a strike offense under the state’s three-strikes law. Penalties are calculated according to the facts of a case, and are imposed for each victim present in a vehicle during the time of an alleged carjacking. Per state law, carjacking is punishable by up to nine years in state prison.
  • Auto Burglary: PC 459 – California makes it a crime to enter a vehicle with the specific intent to commit a theft or a felony. Breaking into a locked vehicle, opening a locked trunk, and stealing property or committing a felony inside is auto burglary in California, and it can result in serious felony charges, as well as lengthy terms of imprisonment, even if defendants left empty-handed.

Auto theft may also be committed in connection to other criminal offenses, or result in other various charges. Some of these include violent crimes like robbery, battery, or assault, and offenses such as receiving stolen property, tampering with a vehicle, and more.

Enhancements, Challenges & Defense

Auto theft allegations are serious charges in and of themselves, but the stakes can be raised when certain issues or enhancements are involved in a case, including:

  • Multiple offenses and / or prior criminal convictions
  • Theft involving public service vehicles (i.e. ambulance, police car, fire truck)
  • Theft from vulnerable individuals, including the elderly
  • The brandishing or use of a firearm or a weapon
  • Injuries or death suffered by victims
  • Criminal street gang enhancements

These and other enhancements give prosecutors a lot of leverage when it comes to gaining convictions or pressuring defendants into unfair plea agreements. At Premier Criminal Defense, our legal team explores all of our clients’ available options, and works meticulously to ensure law enforcement, prosecutors, and the government do not violate your rights, comply with the rules and procedures by which they’re bound, and meet their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Though every case is different, we focus on issues such as intent, the alleged use or absence of force or fear, mistaken identity, inadmissible evidence, and other elements of a case that can help when seeking reductions in charges and penalties, favorable plea deals, case dismissals, or victory at trial.

Arrested in San Diego? Call Premier Criminal Defense for a FREE Case Review

Auto theft is nothing to take lightly; many charges associated with theft crimes and vehicles have the potential for serious penalties, hefty fines, imprisonment, and a long-term impact on your future. If you have been arrested for an auto theft offense in San Diego, or have a loved one who’s recently been charged, the time to enlist the support of a proven defense lawyer is now.

Premier Criminal Defense is available 24/7 to help potential clients throughout San Diego and beyond. Call (619) 374-1268 for a free and confidential case review.

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