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
If you or someone you know is facing Grand Theft Auto charges, call my