Although the number of car thefts has declined over the past decade, they have been on the rise again more recently. Often cars are stolen and stripped for parts or used to commit other crimes. Vehicle theft is considered grand theft in Florida because the value of the stolen car is usually greater than $300. Sometimes there may be additional charges attached to vehicle theft, such as assault, aggravated assault, robbery, and other crimes. If you are charged with stealing a car or other vehicle, an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney can develop a sound strategy for you.How is Car Theft Charged?
A Florida prosecutor charging vehicle theft must establish a defendant's intent to take or use a vehicle owned by someone else. The defendant must have intended to take away the owner’s right to possess or use the car at the time that the defendant took it.
The penalties for vehicle theft depend partly on the value of the car. Stealing property worth an amount between $300 and $20,000 qualifies as grand theft in the third degree. Stealing property worth an amount between $20,000 and $100,000 qualifies as grand theft in the second degree. Causing over $1,000 worth of damages to property or premises while stealing the car qualifies as grand theft in the first degree. All three of these crimes are felonies in Florida. Moreover, any theft of a car or motorcycle will be charged as a felony even if the amount of its value is less than $300.
A conviction for vehicle theft has serious consequences. If you are found guilty of this crime, you probably will lose your driver's license for six months to a year. Other penalties will vary depending on whether you are convicted of a second-degree or third-degree felony. A conviction for a second-degree felony, for example, can result in a 15-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.
Beyond asserting general defenses related to criminal procedure or insufficient evidence, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can make more specific arguments for you depending on what happened in your case. One strong argument involves a defendant's good-faith belief that he or she owned or had a right to possess the vehicle. Another defense is consent, which arises if the car owner has had a history of loaning you the car, and you believed you had his consent. Involuntary intoxication may also serve as a defense.Contact a Vehicle Theft Attorney
An experienced Palm Beach Gardens vehicle theft defense lawyer can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case. I spent five years as a state prosecutor before becoming a defense attorney. I use insights gathered over 30 years of legal practice to build a strong defense on your behalf. I serve clients from two offices for your convenience. One office is located in Palm Beach Gardens, near I-95 and PGA Boulevard, and the other office is located in West Palm Beach. Schedule a free initial consultation by calling 561-533-1221, or contact me through my online form. Both offices accept credit cards.