Under Florida law, Theft Crimes are usually charged based on the amount of property alleged to be taken. Grand Theft Auto is different though, classified by the type of property alleged to have been stolen, an automobile. Theft of under $750 is usually charged as a misdemeanor, but an automobile in that category is automatically charged as a felony.
What is Theft under Florida Law?
Theft is defined by Florida Statues § 812.014(1) as occurring when : “[a] person . . . knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:” deprive the other person or to keep for use by self or use by another who is not authorized. This essentially means 1) the perpetrator must know what they are doing, 2) they must take or use property without permission, and 3) must actually intend them to no longer be able to use it or to keep it from them for some period of time.
What is an Automobile under Florida Law?
A motor vehicle under Florida Statutes § 320.01, is defined as either:
- “An automobile, motorcycle, truck, trailer, semitrailer, truck tractor and semitrailer combination, or any other vehicle operated on the roads of this state, used to transport persons or property, and propelled by power other than muscular power, but the term does not include traction engines, road rollers, motorized scooters, micromobility devices, personal delivery devices and mobile carriers . . . special mobile equipment . . . vehicles that run only upon a track, bicycles, electric bicycles, swamp buggies, or mopeds.”
- “A recreational vehicle-type unit primarily designed as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel use, which either has its own motive power or is mounted on or drawn by another vehicle.”
Penalties for Grand Theft Auto in Florida
Grand Theft Auto is always charged as a felony, but the severity of that felony is determined by the value of the allegedly stolen vehicle.
- Grand Theft Auto of the Third-Degree – $750-$20,000
Third-Degree Felony – Maximum 5 years of prison, 5 years of probation, and $5,000 fine
- Grand Theft Auto of the Second-Degree – $20,000-$100,000
Second-Degree Felony – Maximum 15 years of prison, 15 years of probation, and $10,000 fine
- Grand Theft Auto of the First-Degree – $100,000 or more
First-Degree Felony – Maximum 30 years of prison, 30 years of probation, and $10,000 fine
Defenses to a Grand Theft Auto Charge
- Intent – Crimes require a certain state of mind, or mens rea. If a crime requires an action to have been performed voluntarily, then fighting that element can result in a not guilty verdict. Theft of a vehicle is Grand Theft, but if it can be proven that the perpetrator did not know they weren’t allowed to drive that vehicle, or it was done on accident, the charges can be dismissed or defeated at trial. It is surprisingly common for defendants to be contacted by police, in a stolen vehicle, after borrowing it from someone else.
- Factual Challenge – Utilized when there was another perpetrator, or the actual incident did not occur the way the government and the police are alleging it did. This usually results in a dismissal, or a jury trial, arguing to a jury that the state cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Factual arguments are frequent in Grand Theft Auto cases due to the complicated facts that the government must prove.
- Challenge of the Value – Evidence that a $751 vehicle was alleged to have been taken can be significantly reduced with evidence the vehicles is worth just a few dollars less, can decrease the worst possible penalties substantially.
- Constitutional Challenges – Grand Theft Auto offenses often involve some sort of search or seizure by the police. It is easy for a police officer to accidentally violate the rights of a citizen by searching without a warrant or probable cause. Another way police frequently violate the rights of citizens is through faulty interrogation. A skilled criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville can seek to suppress any ill-gotten statements the state may be plan on using to prove guilt.
Jacksonville Grand Theft Auto Defense Lawyer
Lee Lockett and the members of the legal team at Lockett law serve the accused across the state of Florida from our offices in Jacksonville. Lee Lockett has decades of experience prosecuting and defending individuals accused of Grand Theft Auto and has an expert knowledge of the laws and procedures involved. The defense team at Lockett law have the reputation and the dedication to fight for your rights and the best possible outcome in your case. Call a Jacksonville Theft attorney today at (904) 858-9818 or connect with our team in the chat window on the bottom right of your screen to have an open and free consultation today.