Many times, California prosecutors do charge minors, who are first time offenders, with joyriding, rather than charging them with grand theft auto, which is a more serious offense. Of course, the charges a minor will face depend on several factors, including:
- How long the accused planned to keep the vehicle.
- The circumstances surrounding the theft of the vehicle.
- If any crimes were committed while using the stolen vehicle.
- Whether the minor has a previous criminal record.
- How old the minor is.
- If the minor was driving or was a passenger in the stolen vehicle.
- If the vehicle was an ambulance, law enforcement, or fire department vehicle.
- And more…
If your child has been charged with joyriding or grand theft auto, you should speak with the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group. A minor should never speak to the police without a parent present and, ideally, should also never talk to police without a lawyer present.
Joyriding Versus Grand Theft Auto
California has two laws dealing with the theft of a motor vehicle:
Which charge a minor faces, and whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, again depends on any number of factors. Our criminal defense lawyers specialize in defending clients accused of Joyriding and Grand Theft Auto. Many times, we can get charges reduced, or dismissed altogether.
What Counts As Joyriding?
Joyriding is loosely defined as taking a vehicle without the consent of the owner, and generally, without the intent of keeping it. That is taking it for a joyride and then abandoning it or returning it. The legal charge for joyriding is Unlawful Taking of a Vehicle, California Vehicle code Section 10851.
Examples of unlawful taking, or joyriding, could include:
- A valet who is supposed to park a car, but instead takes the flashy sports car for a ride.
- A group of teens take a parent or grandparents car without their permission to go enjoy a day at the beach, but don’t get home before the parents report the car stolen.
- A teen steals a golf cart to get them where they want to go.
Unlawful taking of a vehicle applies to cars, trucks motorcycles, mopeds, golf carts, and any other self-propelled motorized vehicle.
What Are The Penalties For Joyriding?
Joyriding, or unlawful taking of a vehicle, is almost always a misdemeanor if you are a minor and it’s your first offense. But you can face a felony charge of unlawful taking if you’ve stolen cars before or have a violent criminal record.
Misdemeanor Penalties For Joyriding
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $5000 in fines
Felony Penalties For Joyriding
- 16 months or 2-3 years in prison
What Counts As Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto is a more serious crime, and is almost always a felony. Grand Theft Auto, or GTA, is defined under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) PC as taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, and with the intent of keeping it for a while.
Examples of grand theft auto include:
- Breaking a car window and hot-wiring the car.
- Stealing a car with the keys left inside.
- Stealing a vehicle with the intent to scrap it and sell it for parts.
What Are The Penalties For Grand Theft Auto?
Grand theft auto is almost always prosecuted as a felony, which entails harsher penalties than joyriding. The penalties for grand theft auto include:
- 16 months to 3 years in jail
- 1 additional year in jail if the vehicle was worth more than $65,000, and 2 additional years if it’s worth more than $200,000
- A fine up to $10,000
And for both unlawful taking of a vehicle and grand theft auto, penalties are increased if the vehicle you stole was an ambulance, law enforcement vehicle, or fire truck.
Possible Defenses Against Joyriding Or GTA Charges
There are several good defenses in car theft cases, but any defense should be based on what truly happened in your case. Possible defense strategies include:
You Had Permission To Use The Vehicle
If you had permission in writing, or even verbal permission, it’s not theft of any sort. Sometimes co-owners of a vehicle don’t communicate with each other, and one person will report a car stolen, even though the other person gave permission for you to use it.
You Were Wrongfully Accused
If you were arrested because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or you look like the person who actually did steal the vehicle, we can help. We’ll get our own investigation underway and gather the needed evidence to prove your innocence.
In many cases, the evidence against you isn’t enough to get a conviction, or the evidence is purely circumstantial.
Contact the Criminal Lawyers at Simmrin Law Group
If you or a loved one has been accused of joyriding or grand theft auto, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Call the Simmrin Law Group in Los Angeles at 310-997-4688 or use our contact form for a free case evaluation. We’re available to help you 24/7.
Whatever the circumstances of your case are, you will want an experienced attorney by your side to help make sure you get the best possible outcome for you and your family. Don’t talk to the police or federal investigators until you’ve talked with us.