I'm not referring to the popular video game series. I'm talking about a serious felony crime in the State of Florida. Grand Theft Auto is an intentional act that involves the taking, permanently or temporarily, of someone else's vehicle with the knowledge that the vehicle doesn't belong to them. Grand Theft Auto is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in state prison. Since the stolen item is always a car, there is usually restitution (repayment) attached to any sentence.
Grand Theft Auto, however, is a tough crime to prove. When I was a prosecutor in Miami-Dade County
, I handled thousands of GTA cases. The thing about Grand Theft Auto is that the State must prove that the accused knew or should have known that the car was stolen. That means, being behind the wheel of an allegedly stolen car is not enough in and of itself to convict someone of Grand Theft Auto. There must be some evidence that the accused knew or should have known that the car was stolen.
The element of knowledge can be proven a number of ways. Most commonly, the knowledge element is satisfied due to a statement the accused person makes to police in which they tell the cops that they knew the car was stolen. This is one of many reasons why you should NEVER speak to police without first consulting a Miami criminal attorney
, or Broward criminal attorney
, depending on where the arrest occurred. More specifically, you should speak with a criminal attorney who has experience handling Grand Theft Auto
Proving that an accused person "should have known" that a car was stolen can be proven through factors such as whether a key was in the ignition or a screwdriver? If there was a key in the ignition, it's plausible that the accused didn't know the car was stolen. If there was a screwdriver jammed in instead of a key, it's more likely that the accused should have known that the car was stolen.
GTA offenses occur a number of ways. In some instances, the accused person may have allegedly broken into a car and taken it. In others, a friend may loan you his car for the day without you realizing the car is stolen. You're driving down the road when all of a sudden, you're lit up by a cop car and stopped at gunpoint. Yup. Gunpoint. This ain't no traffic stop. This is a felony stop. The car has been reported stolen and you are the driver. You are now charged with Grand Theft Auto.
The police will likely charge an accused person with Grand Theft Auto because their standard for arrest is lower than the State Attorney's standard for filing formal charges. It is at this stage when a Miami criminal attorney
, or Broward criminal attorney
, should be retained. If you read my other entries discussing the 21-30 day filing period, intervention by a criminal defense attorney at this point may convince the prosecutors that you legitimately did not know the car was stolen, and therefore cannot be held accountable criminally.
If you or someone you know is facing Grand Theft Auto charges, call my office today.