In the state of California, auto theft could be considered to be either a misdemeanor or a felony charge. The severity of the charge depends on the facts in the case, and it could also hinge on the defendant's criminal record. Furthermore, the type of charge a person faces may depend on whether he or she intended to keep the vehicle permanently or merely took it on a joyride.
However, most auto theft charges are prosecuted as felonies. To qualify as auto theft in California, several elements need to be proven, including the fact that the automobile was worth more than $950. Prosecutors would also need to show that the vehicle didn't belong to the defendant and that it was taken without permission. An individual may have committed auto theft whether the car was taken with the help of equipment or by deceiving its owner.
If a person is charged with joyriding, the defendant will likely be charged with a misdemeanor, but a felony charge is possible depending on the circumstances. Penalties for auto theft include 16 months to three years in prison or a fine. In some cases, an offender will face both jail time and a fine of up to $10,000. Enhanced penalties may be imposed when vehicles deemed to be especially valuable are taken without permission.
An individual will face serious consequences after being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Consequences include time spent in jail or prison, fines or probation. However, an attorney can help a defendant obtain a favorable outcome in a criminal case. This may be done by casting doubt on witness testimony or other evidence presented by a prosecutor. Legal counsel could also move to have evidence suppressed, which means that a jury will never see it.