The term grand theft auto has entered the public consciousness as the title of a wildly popular video game series. In the State of Minnesota, grand theft auto also refers to a felony that involves the theft of a vehicle that can result in significant legal consequences. The severity of the crime of grand theft auto and its penalties varies with the value of the car stolen (much like shoplifting charges vary with the value of the stolen items). Because the theft involves a vehicle, however, the charge is automatically a felony in the State of Minnesota – even if the car’s value doesn’t reach the felony threshold of $1,000. If you are facing a charge of grand theft auto, you should contact an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.
The Elements of Grand Theft Auto
In order to be convicted of grand theft auto, all of the following elements must be present:
● You must have driven or otherwise taken a vehicle
● That vehicle must have belonged to someone other than yourself
● You must not have had consent to take the vehicle in question
The crime of grand theft auto is fairly straightforward. Further, because grand theft auto is a felony, the penalties for conviction are quite steep and can include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years (or more) in prison. Furthermore, a conviction can result in significant collateral consequences, including problems getting a job, renting an apartment, joining the military, or pursuing your education. Fortunately, in many instances, an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota can protect your rights and future.
Grand Theft Auto vs. Joyriding
The distinction between grand theft auto and joyriding is a matter of degree and is typically based on the amount of time the alleged culprit intends to keep the car in question. When a person takes another person’s vehicle with no intention of permanently depriving its owner of the vehicle, it’s considered a case of joyriding in most states. In Minnesota, however, this distinction regarding intention is not relevant. If you take someone else’s car without their consent – even if you plan on returning it – you can still be charged with grand theft auto in Minnesota. Joyriding charges in Minnesota typically only apply to kids who take their parents’ vehicles out for a spin without permission. The penalties for joyriding are unsurprisingly much less harsh than for grand theft auto.
Every charge of grand theft auto – like every other offense – is specific to the circumstances at hand, but there are several primary defense strategies that commonly apply. These include:
● Entrapment or Duress – If you can show that law enforcement induced you to commit a crime that you would not otherwise have committed, you may have a viable defense for GTA. Further, if you can show that you committed the crime under duress – or under the threat of serious force by someone other than yourself – it can prove to be a strong defense.
● Lack of Proof – In order to convict you of grand theft auto, the prosecution must be able to prove that each element pertains to your specific case. And if you can demonstrate that there is a lack of evidence regarding any of these elements, you may be able to build a solid defense.
● Consent – If the owner of a vehicle consents to you driving his or her vehicle, doing so is not a crime. It’s important to recognize, however, that prior consent does not amount to current consent. If a vehicle’s owner has consented to you driving his or her car many times before, that prior consent doesn’t extend beyond those specific situations, and you will need consent for the particular instance in question.
Whatever your situation, it’s critical that you understand that grand theft auto is always a serious charge that can result in equally serious consequences. If you’re facing grand theft auto charges, you owe it to yourself and to your future to obtain the professional legal counsel of a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Discuss Your Case with a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you’re facing a grand theft auto charge, the criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller in Minneapolis have what it takes to protect your rights and bring your case to the most favorable resolution possible. To schedule your case evaluation with a lawyer, contact or call us at 612.440.3212 today.