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Grand Theft

Stealing a car, taking money from your job, or stealing more than a few hundred dollars worth of property may be considered grand theft. 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. Your grand theft criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and help you build a strong defense.

What is Grand Theft?

Theft involves intentionally taking property or money of another. Theft charges are based 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.

Taking certain items may also be considered grand theft, no matter what the value of the item. In many states, theft of a vehicle is grand theft, even if the vehicle is only worth a few hundred dollars. Types of theft that could be considered grand theft can include:

  • Grand theft auto
  • Theft of a gun or firearm
  • Multiple small thefts

Grand Theft Auto

Grand theft auto may involve stealing any vehicle, no matter how much the car is worth. Taking an expensive sports car may carry similar criminal charges as stealing an old, broken-down vehicle.

Grand Theft Guns

Firearms may also be considered grand theft, no matter what the gun is worth. In some states, stealing a pistol, rifle, shotgun, or any firearm is grand theft, even if the gun is an old collectible that does not even shoot.

Adding Up Value of Items

In some states, the court may add up the value of smaller items to charge the defendant with grand theft. Individual shoplifting of a few small items may only be valued at $100. However, the prosecutor may be able to combine multiple thefts so that the value of the property adds up to grand theft charges.

Penalties for Grand Theft Charges

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

  • Jail up to a year
  • Fines
  • Restitution
  • Probation

In most states, grand theft is a felony. Depending on the value of the property stolen, a conviction for grand theft could include more than a year in state prison, fines, restitution, and parole. A felony criminal record is generally more serious than a misdemeanor and could impact your future job and housing options.

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

  • Prior criminal record
  • If a firearm was used
  • Value of the property taken
  • Number of people involved
  • Multiple thefts

Legal Defense for Criminal Grand Theft

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

  • Mistaken identity
  • No intent to keep the property
  • No intent to steal
  • 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 just looks similar to the person who committed the theft. Someone should not have to face jail just because they looked like someone else.

No intent to keep the property: If the defendant never intended to keep the property, they may have a defense to theft charges. In some states, there are separate grand theft auto and joyriding charges. If the defendant only intended to take the car for a short ride, they may be charged with a lesser charge of joyriding instead of grand theft auto.

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. Someone may have put stolen goods in your bag or car without your knowledge. 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.

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