In Minnesota, car theft charges are a bit different than in most other states, and this distinction makes car theft in Minnesota an even tougher charge. If you’re facing a charge related to stealing a car, working closely with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney is in your best interest.
Car Theft Charges in Minnesota
In Minnesota, car theft comes under the broader umbrella of theft, which refers to taking something from someone else with the intention of depriving that person of the stolen good permanently. For theft to reach the level of a felony, the stolen item or items must be worth at least $1,000. When it comes to the theft of a car, however, things are a bit different, and all of the following apply:
• The theft of a car in Minnesota is always considered grand theft, which is a felony (regardless of whether the car is worth at least $1,000 or not).
• If someone takes a car without consent in Minnesota, it is theft (regardless of whether the accused thief intended to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle or not).
The State of Minnesota is particularly harsh when it comes to auto theft. Most other states require the element of intention (intending to permanently deprive the vehicle’s owner of that vehicle) before taking a car reaches the level of grand theft auto. Without this intention, such an action – in most other states – amounts to a charge of joyriding, which is often categorized as a misdemeanor.
Minnesota Does Not Recognize Joyriding
Because Minnesota does not require the element of intention in its grand theft auto charge, even an instance of what most of us think of as joyriding amounts to grand theft auto in Minnesota. However, if a kid does take their parent’s car out for a spin around the neighborhood without permission, Minnesota is likely to go easy regarding any legal charges.
Proving the Elements of Grand Theft Auto
To prove that you committed grand theft auto, the state’s prosecution must be able to demonstrate that each of the charge’s elements apply in your case. These elements include:
• You took a car.
• The car belonged to someone else.
• The owner of the car did not give you prior consent to take it.
The issue of consent is an important one here. Even if someone gave you permission to drive their vehicle in the past, that does not necessarily mean that you had consent to drive their car in this instance.
The Associated Penalties
A grand theft auto conviction can cost you up to $10,000 in fines, up to 5 years behind bars, as well as the costs associated with any damage to the stolen vehicle while it was in your possession. A grand theft auto conviction can also seriously limit your housing prospects, educational prospects, employment prospects, social standing, and more. The consequences of having a felony on your record are far too great not to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney in defense of your rights.
Defending Yourself Against Grand Theft Auto Charges
As mentioned, the prosecution will need to show that each element of the grand theft auto charge applies to your situation, and the burden of proof is on them. If you can demonstrate that any one of the elements is missing, you will have the beginnings of a robust defense. While your defense will be unique to your exact situation, there are several common defenses that may be applicable, including:
• Insufficient Evidence – Because the prosecution must prove each element of grand theft auto, demonstrating that there isn’t enough evidence to support one or more of these elements can be a very effective approach.
• Consent – If the owner of the vehicle consented to your use of it and then reneged, making this case can be a good defense strategy. If they allowed you to drive their car in the past, it can help bolster your claim of consent.
Call an Experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you’ve been charged with grand theft auto, you’re facing a felony charge and it’s serious. The formidable criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller in Minneapolis are committed to aggressively advocating on behalf of your legal rights and for your favorable case resolution. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 612.440.3212 today.