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About San Diego Criminal Law Center

San Diego Criminal Law Center was created to provide useful information for anyone charged with a crime in San Diego and throughout the state of California. Author and attorney Vikas Bajaj has over 16 years of criminal defense experience. If you have been charged with a crime or under investigation, read our articles for useful info that may help you during this difficult time.


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:

  1. You took a motor vehicle that belonged to another person
  2. You did not have consent to take the vehicle
  3. You intended to take the vehicle permanently or for long enough to deprive the owner of its value; and
  4. 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.

Joyriding

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.

San Diego is doing what it can to crack down on underage drinking in the state. Police in San Diego recently wrapped up operation “Minor Decoy,” which was intended to identify locations where minors could get their hands on alcohol illegally. During the operation, minors under the direct supervision of local police would enter establishments across San Diego and attempt to purchase alcohol. Police were able to arrest two men for selling alcohol to minors.

It’s Illegal to Facilitate Underage Drinking

The drinking age in California is 21 years old. Under state law, it’s illegal for anyone under that age to purchase or consume alcohol. It’s also a crime to help a person under the age of 21 to obtain alcohol. Specifically, California Business & Professions Code 25658(a) BPC makes it illegal to “sell, furnish, give, or cause to be sold, furnished, or given away any alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.” So, it’s not only a crime to sell alcohol to a minor, but to provide alcohol to a minor in any way.

What Does the State Have to Prove?

When you’re accused of a crime the state still has the burden of proving that you are guilty. In order to do this, prosecutors must provide evidence to show that:

  • You sold, gave, or furnished alcohol to a specific person, and
  • That person was under the age of 21 at that time.

It will be important for prosecutors to have evidence that you’ve sold or otherwise provided alcohol to a specific person under the age of 21. The absence of this evidence could prevent them from satisfying their burden of proof.

What If I Honestly Believed the Person Was 21?

There are certain times when you may not be charged with a crime even if you do, in fact, sell or give alcohol to a minor. State law is intended to stop individuals from intentionally and knowingly providing alcohol to minors. If you can prove that you took certain steps to establish that a person was, in fact, at least 21 years old, you may be able to avoid criminal charges.

You may be able to establish that you reasonably believed a person was at least 21 if you requested government-issued ID as proof of age and relied on that ID. If this happened, you could assert a strong mistake of fact defense. The state isn’t looking to punish you if you reasonably believed that the person attempting to purchase alcohol was of legal drinking age.

Penalties For Selling or Providing Alcohol to a Minor

The consequences of selling alcohol to a person under the age of 21 can be harsh. Criminal penalties for this misdemeanor include a fine of $1,000 and at least 24 hours of community service. Bars and restaurants may also face additional fines and sanctions from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

Dram Shop Liability

Bars & Bartenders: Bartenders and bar owners typically aren’t responsible for drunk driving accidents that are caused by their customers. However, bars may be responsible for harm caused by underage customers they’ve served. Victims of drunk driving accidents can seek financial compensation from a bar if they provided alcohol to the underage driver.

Parents and Social Hosts: It’s important to note that parents or social hosts may also be personally responsible for harm caused by underage drinkers they’ve served in their own home.

Defending Yourself If You’re Accused of Selling Alcohol to a Minor

A strong defense can help you secure the best outcome in your San Diego criminal case. Possible defense arguments in a case involving the sale of alcohol to a minor can include:

  • You reasonably believed the customer was over the age of 21
  • The person was actually over the age of 21
  • You did not sell or furnish alcohol to that person, and
  • Evidence in your case was obtained in violation of your rights.

Remember, the state has to prove that you’re guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You can make a prosecutor’s job much more difficult by defending yourself. If you need help with your defense it’s smart to contact an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will fight to protect your rights and make sure that you have every opportunity to defend yourself.

 

Have you been arrested for an alcohol or drug-related crime in San Diego? Contact our criminal defense lawyers for immediate legal assistance. We’re here to help you fight to protect your future. Call today to learn more.

Earlier this fall a San Diego man was arrested when police found more than 156 pounds of drugs in his car. According to reports, the man met with a police source and offered to sell “large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin.” The source negotiated a deal and agreed to meet later that week for the exchange. Police searched the man’s vehicle when he arrived for the exchange and found heroin and more than 71 kilos of methamphetamine. He was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.

Methamphetamine Crimes in San Diego

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that it has a “high potential for abuse” which can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence.” Simply put, methamphetamine is viewed as a very dangerous substance at both the state and local levels. Under Health and Safety Code 11379 HSC it is a crime to transport, import, sell, furnish, administer, or give away methamphetamine in the state of California.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Trafficking is defined as the “illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.” So, kind of trafficking refers to the grand scheme of drug crimes in California. How does the state distinguishing between charges for the sale or distribution of methamphetamine and methamphetamine trafficking? A few different factors go into the determination.

The biggest factor is typically the quantity or amount of drugs involved the transaction. If a person has a large quantity of methamphetamine they are more likely to be charged with trafficking than distribution. Having large quantities tends to indicate that there may be other illegal activity, including manufacturing and transportation, involved.

So, sales and distribution of smaller quantities of methamphetamine will likely be charged as sale or distribution under 11379 HSC. If you’re caught trying to move larger quantities of methamphetamine, you’ll probably face charges for trafficking.

What are the Consequences for Methamphetamine Trafficking in San Diego?

Trafficking methamphetamine is a felony offense in California. Penalties can include:

  • Felony probation
  • $10,000 in fines, and/or
  • 2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison.

Enhanced Penalties for Trafficking Methamphetamine

The penalties for trafficking methamphetamine can be enhanced if there are any aggravating factors.

Trafficking Meth in Two or More Counties: If your methamphetamine trafficking crime involves two or more counties you can be sentenced to 9 years in prison.

Trafficking Meth Near a Rehab or Detox Clinic: You can face up to an additional 1-2 years in prison if you traffick methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center, homeless shelter, or detox center.

Selling a Large Quantity of Methamphetamine: You can face an additional 3-15 years in prison if you sell more than one kilogram of methamphetamine.

What Does the State Have to Prove If I’m Arrested for Trafficking Meth?

When you’re charged with a crime the state still has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involved proving each element of the crime you’ve been accused of committing. When you’re facing charges for trafficking methamphetamine, the state must prove:

  1. You sold, imported, furnished, administered, gave away, or transported methamphetamine; and
  2. You did so knowingly and intentionally.

In other words, the state has to prove that you knew you had the drugs and that you intended to distribute them in violation of the law.

You can offer certain defenses to make it difficult for the state to build a case against you. These could include lack of knowledge, false accusation, or acting under force or duress.

 

Drug crime convictions can stay with you for life. You have the right to defend yourself, and an attorney can help. Contact our San Diego drug crime defense lawyers for immediate assistance today.