Many people do not think of the consequences of their actions as they are committing a crime. Unfortunately, every year in California, people commit the crime of theft. But what happens when you attempt to steal someone else’s car and you are caught breaking the law? What happens in California and what should you expect as a punishment?

California “Wobblers” 

In California, stealing a car is a “wobbler” crime because it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. This is actually a rare state that abides by these laws. If you have stolen an item worth over $950 in California, then your crime will be classified as a felony. It’s pretty hard to steal a car worth less than that. According to state statutes, even stealing a very cheap car could still count as a felony even though the prosecutor in your case will have the option of deciding how they want to charge you.

Proving Grand Theft Auto 

If you have been charged with stealing a car, the prosecutor must show a couple of elements. They must show that you took the car without consent, that you did not have ownership rights of the car, and that you wanted to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. Perhaps the car was left unattended by the owner but you saw the keys inside and decided to take it. If so, you will be charged with car theft, which can carry harsh penalties.

One of the only defenses you can use in these cases is that you were responding to an emergency situation. Perhaps a car was left unattended with the keys in it and somebody in your neighborhood was shot. You drove them to the nearest hospital with the intention of getting them help, not to steal a vehicle. There are some occasions in which this scenario could apply. However, the court will have to look at the circumstances of the case and make these determinations.

Stealing a car is a hefty crime that could earn you time in prison and fines. We want to help you if you have been charged, especially if you did not mean to steal a car. Call us for more information on how we can help.