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Grand Theft

Key Takeaways:

  • Grand theft is taking money or property over a certain dollar value.
  • Grand theft can be a felony, and the penalties include jail time, fines, and a felony criminal record.
  • Legal defenses to grand theft include mistaken identity, no intent to steal, or unlawful search and seizure of evidence.

Stealing a car, taking money from your job, or stealing more than a few hundred dollars worth of property may be considered grand theft, a serious crime. The penalties for criminal theft generally depend on the value of the property taken. Grand theft is usually charged as a felony, with penalties including jail time, fines, and a criminal record.

When facing criminal charges for grand theft, it is important to know your rights and legal defenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney can give you legal advice about your rights after an arrest.

What Is Grand Theft?

Theft involves the unlawful taking of property or money of another. Theft or larceny charges can depend on the property involved and the value of the property. If the property value is under a certain amount, it may be petty theft. Theft of property over a certain amount is grand theft or grand larceny. Petty theft is often charged as a misdemeanor, but grand theft is usually considered a felony. State law determines the amount of money that separates grand theft from petty theft.

The value of the item taken may be based on the sales price or the fair market value. For example, if someone took a ring with a price tag of $1,000 but only got $100 for it at a pawn shop, they may still face grand theft charges because the value is $1,000.

The value of the stolen property can also be combined. If you are accused of shoplifting multiple $100 sunglasses, the total value could change the type of theft from petty larceny to grand larceny.

What Are the Penalties for Grand Theft?

The penalties for grand theft auto or grand larceny may depend on several factors, including where the theft occurred. In some states, grand theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, the penalties may include:

  • A county jail sentence for up to one year
  • Fines
  • Restitution
  • Community service
  • Probation

Grand theft can also be a felony, especially when combined with other criminal activity or multiple vehicle thefts. Felony charges for grand theft auto cases can include a state prison sentence of longer than one year and a felony record. With a felony larceny offense on your record, it can be more difficult to get a job, find housing, or qualify for government benefits.

Other factors that could increase the penalties for criminal theft charges include:

  • Your prior criminal history
  • Whether you used a firearm
  • If you fled from law enforcement
  • The value of the property taken
  • The number of people involved
  • If there were multiple thefts

If you are facing grand theft charges, you have legal rights and defenses. There are many possible legal defenses for grand larceny crimes, including:

  • Mistaken identity
  • That you had no intent to keep the property
  • That you had no intent to steal
  • The offense is only petty theft

Mistaken Identity

Many people are just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Eyewitnesses are not always reliable and may point out an innocent person who looks similar to the person who committed the theft. You should not have to face jail because you look like someone else.

No Intent To Keep the Property

If you never intended to keep the property, you may have a defense against theft charges. In some states, there are separate grand theft auto and joyriding charges. If you only intended to take the car for a short ride, you may face a lesser charge of joyriding instead of motor vehicle theft.

No Intent To Steal

Theft requires an intent to deprive the owner of the property. If you had no intent to steal, you should not be convicted of theft. If someone stole the car and sold it to you without your knowledge, you may have thought you were buying from the owner of the vehicle. Even if you are later found with the stolen property, you may have a defense to criminal theft charges.

Only Petty Theft

The prosecutor generally has to show the value of the property stolen was over the grand theft amount. If the value of the property was much lower than claimed, the defendant should not have to face grand theft penalties.

When Should I Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you are accused of taking a car without the owner’s consent, you should reach out for legal help. Grand theft charges can mean a felony theft conviction. Just because the prosecutor makes it seem like you don’t have a chance, you still have legal rights. Your attorney can review your case, identify your legal defenses, and negotiate for the best possible outcome.

If you were arrested on grand theft criminal charges, talk to a local criminal law defense attorney to understand your rights and options.

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