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What Does an Accusation of Grand Theft Auto Mean in Florida?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

March 25, 2021

People accused of grand theft auto in Florida face serious consequences. In one year alone, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 8,301 arrests for motor vehicle theft. The potential penalties include imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record with a felony.

Florida Law: What Is Grand Theft Auto?

In Florida, stealing a motor vehicle is classified as a felony under the state’s theft statute.

In many cases, grand theft means that the value of the stolen property is at least $300. However, even if a motor vehicle somehow falls beneath that value, stealing it is still considered a grand theft and a felony.

The theft of a vehicle involves intentionally obtaining or using it without the owner’s permission. The following are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Even if you intend to return the vehicle to its owner after a short amount of time, you’re still vulnerable to an accusation of grand theft auto. For example, joyriding can get you charged with motor vehicle theft.
  • Cars aren’t the only vehicles covered by grand theft auto. Motorcycles and trucks are two other examples.
  • Grand theft auto is often a third-degree felony. However, there are some situations that warrant a different felony charge. For example, theft of a semitrailer used by law enforcement officials is a first-degree felony and can result in harsher penalties.

What Are the Potential Penalties of Grand Theft Auto in Florida?

Charges and penalties depend on multiple factors, including the details of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. Along with a driver’s license suspension, a third-degree felony can result in up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. A first-degree felony may lead to decades in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

An individual may also be charged with other crimes in connection to vehicular theft. For example, forging a signature to obtain illegal access to a vehicle can lead to additional forgery charges. Another example is carjacking, which involves using force or a violent threat to steal a motor vehicle. Carjacking, which is distinct from grand theft auto, is a first-degree felony. Even if there’s no use of a deadly weapon, carjacking may result in decades of prison time.

Florida Grand Theft Auto: Examples of Possible Defenses

How we approach your defense depends on the specific details of your case. The following are a few examples of defenses that may be used against a charge of grand theft auto:

Lack of intent to commit theft. You may have assumed you had permission to use a certain vehicle. Maybe the owner did give you permission but later forgot. If there’s anything in writing, such as an agreement reached via email or text, it may be used as evidence to support your case. Another possibility is that you assumed you owned or co-owned the vehicle in question. Your actions were undertaken in good faith.

Misidentification. A grainy video or a photo taken from a poor angle may seem to suggest that you were involved in the theft. However, the image is unclear. A witness may have singled you out as the alleged perpetrator. But did they see you clearly, or are they confusing you with someone else? Are there details they’ve left out or changed in different versions of their testimony? Witness testimonies and other evidence may lack sufficient accuracy and consistency.

Duress. In certain situations, grand theft auto is a response to a serious danger or an emergency. For example, maybe you needed to quickly escape a violent attack and took command of a vehicle that wasn’t yours. You may be able to demonstrate that you were responding to a threat that was significant and imminent.

Perhaps one of these defenses applies to your case. Or maybe none of them do, and you need a different approach. We’ll help you build the strongest case possible and safeguard your rights and your best interests as you deal with the criminal justice system.

Contact Hager & Schwartz

When facing a felony charge for grand theft auto, it’s crucial to work with reputable and experienced attorneys. We give you consistent attention and compassion, scrutinize every detail of your case, formulate a powerful defense, and advocate for you with skill and tenacity.

As a result of our previous work as state prosecutors, we bring unique strengths to your case, and we use our extensive understanding of the criminal justice system to your advantage. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (954) 840-8713 or through our site.