A Mercedes-Benz was stolen from outside a 99 Cent Store in Escondido earlier this week. A 6-month-old infant was sleeping in the back of the vehicle at the time. The vehicle’s owner, who had left the keys in the ignition while she ran inside the store, immediately called the police when she learned that her car and child had been taken. A short time later, police officers discovered the abandoned vehicle with the child safely inside about two miles from the store.
What Charges Can You Face For Stealing a Car?
According to reports, a police investigation led officers to 31-year-old Anthony Guerrero. Guerrero, who was on parole for a felony offense, was arrested and charged with felony vehicle theft and felony possession of a stolen vehicle. He was also charged with violating the conditions of his parole.
Grand Theft Auto
Theft is the crime of taking property that doesn’t belong to you without the owner’s consent. When the value of the stolen property exceeds $950, you can face criminal charges for grand theft under Penal Code 487 PC. When a car is involved, the crime is known as grand theft auto. Grand theft auto, as defined in Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC, doesn’t actually require the value of the stolen car to exceed $950. Anytime you steal a motor vehicle you can face criminal charges for grand theft auto.
What does the state have to prove when you’re charged with grand theft auto? Prosecutors have the burden of showing:
- You took a motor vehicle that belonged to another person
- You did not have consent to take the vehicle
- You intended to take the vehicle permanently or for long enough to deprive the owner of its value; and
- You moved the car at least a short distance.
Simply put, grand theft auto is the crime of stealing a car with the intent to deprive the owner of its value for a significant period of time or permanently. You can be charged with joyriding, a different crime if you steal a car for a short period of time with the intent to return it.
Penalty: Grand theft auto can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in San Diego. The specific charges you’ll face will depend on your criminal record, the value of the stolen vehicle, and other factors relevant to your case.
As a felony, grand theft auto is punishable by $10,000 in fines, up to 3 years in a California state prison, and/or felony probation.
It’s a crime to take another person’s car without their permission. If you intend to take it permanently or for a significant amount of time, you can face charges for grand theft auto. However, you’re more likely to face charges for joyriding if you steal a vehicle for a relatively short period of time. Joyriding, also known as driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, is defined in Vehicle Code 10581 VC. You can be charged with joyriding if you:
- Drive or take a vehicle that belongs to someone else
- With the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner of possession,
- With or without intent to steal the vehicle.
Even taking a vehicle for a very short period of time, even 5 or 10 minutes, could result in criminal charges.
Penalty: Joyriding can be a misdemeanor or a felony in California. As a misdemeanor, penalties can include $5,000 in fines and/or 12 months in a San Diego County jail. As a felony, joyriding is punishable by up to 3 years in a California state prison. Penalties can be enhanced if you steal a government vehicle or have prior joyriding or grand theft convictions.
Charges and Sentencing Will Hinge on Facts of Your Case
Many crimes – including grand theft auto and joyriding – are classified as wobblers. A wobbler can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charges and sentences a defendant is likely to face will ultimately depend on factors that are relevant to that specific case.
You’re more likely to face felony charges if:
- You have prior convictions for similar crimes
- You have a history of criminal behavior
- Your crime involves a significant amount of money or high-valued assets
- Bystanders or victims suffer bodily harm, and
- Children are affected by your behavior.
These are known as aggravating factors. The more aggravating factors in your case, the more severe the charges and the harsher the penalties.
In this case, the 31-year-old stole an expensive car that happened to have a 6-month-old sleeping in the back seat. Even if he didn’t have prior convictions or wasn’t out on parole, this is likely enough to warrant felony charges. At the very least, this will be considered when determining the man’s criminal sentence if he is convicted.
Have you or someone you love been arrested for a crime in San Diego? Contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers for immediate assistance. We offer a free consultation, so don’t hesitate to call for help today.