Grand Theft Auto

Grand theft auto is a specific type of felony involving the theft of motor vehicles. The illegal act may also be charged as "motor vehicle theft." The term "grand theft auto" has been popularized by the media and continues to be used by some police departments today. Most states will charge auto theft as a felony, and if the vehicle is deemed to be valuable then the case will be considered a "grand theft" case.

What decides if a vehicle is valuable? States will decide by dollar amount. Some states may set the price as $1,000 or over and anything less to be considered petty theft. Obviously, the penalties for grand theft auto would be far more severe than cases of petty theft. (Like comparing the theft of a household vehicle to the theft of an unlocked junk car in someone backyard)

Prosecuting the Defendant

The prosecution of a grand theft auto case will depend on the circumstances following the theft. Most cases of grand theft auto are never solved. If the stolen vehicle is eventually found it will be held and tested for criminal identification. The victim will have the chance to identify the person who stole the car (if the incident was witnessed) either through a lineup or a database of mug shots.


Not only can a car thief be convicted of grand theft auto, but he or she can also be sued in a civil trial for any damage to the vehicle, as well as punitive damages. The amount that can be claimed in a civil trial varies from state to state. Penalties for the criminal trial can include incarceration and the term will usually be decided upon by the extent of the crime perpetrated.

If the episode were comparatively minor, then the accused might be sentenced to probation, a fine and community service. The loss of a driver's license is always an option. A longer prison term would be recommended for a repeat offender. If the accused used a weapon or threatened physical violence against the owner during the crime, then the prison sentence would be extended. There may also be other factors that will contribute to the sentence, including whether the accused kept the car for over 24 hours, if any attempts were made to disguise or alter the vehicle and if any damage was caused to the car.

Remember that grand theft auto or motor vehicle theft could apply to several forms of theft including:

  • The theft and "hotwiring" of a parked vehicle.
  • The theft or "borrowing" of a parked car with the keys, presumably taken without the owner's consent.
  • Carjacking which may involve assault or the threat of assault.
  • Opportunistic theft, involving a parked or running car that has been left unattended with the keys still visible.
  • Fraudulent theft, involving the illegal acquisition of the car with questionable funds

The FBI reported that in 2006, 1,192,809 vehicles were stolen, averaging about one theft every 30 seconds. For more information on grand theft auto look up grand theft auto defense and legal help online.

If you are facing a theft charge, consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately to discuss your case.

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