Auto theft cases can result in severe penalties for individuals who are ultimately convicted. Prison sentences and steep fines can result from an auto theft charge, and understanding your rights will help you create an effective defense in your case.
Georgia laws classify the theft of any motor vehicle as a felony crime. Consulting with a skilled attorney provides the resources needed to protect your rights and prevent the consequences of an auto theft conviction.
Defining Auto Theft
There are many circumstances that involve auto theft. Nonviolent thefts result in charges that fall under Georgia’s “theft by taking” statute. This distinguishes these acts from violent thefts that occur in cases of carjacking or other criminal activities.
Theft is generally described as illegally taking another individual’s property. Auto theft can also occur in cases where an individual has the legal possession of a car while trying to take away ownership from the vehicle’s legal owner.
A person who enters another’s vehicle without permission may be charged with criminal trespassing.
Violent auto thefts consist of carjacking cases in which one person violently or forcibly takes another person’s vehicle. This is committed through intimidation or the use of a weapon.
Punishment for Auto Theft
An auto theft conviction could result in penalties that include fines, prison time, the loss of your driver’s license, and restitution. The use of weapons can lead to secondary charges that add to the potential penalties that you face if convicted of auto theft.
Penalties for nonviolent auto theft aren’t explicitly defined by the state of Georgia, as there is no statute for this crime.
But judges may choose from a range of punishments that don’t depend on the type of theft that occurred (e.g., theft by taking, theft by conversion, etc.).
The type of vehicles stolen can influence the resulting penalties. The unlawful taking of a commercial vehicle can lead to a prison sentence that ranges from 3 to 10 years, and fines of up to $50,000 may be applied.
Noncommercial vehicle theft results in penalties that are based on the value of the vehicle.
Those whose value is no more than $5,000 can result in prison sentences of up to 5 years while those that exceed $25,000 can lead to a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Carjacking can result in 10- to 20-year prison sentences and fines ranging between $10,000 and $100,000. Previous convictions increase the severity of these penalties and should be considered when preparing your case.
Defending Yourself Against Auto Theft Charges
An attorney will help you determine the best options for your auto theft case. Not all auto theft charges are as straightforward as they might appear. Some defendants may assert that a vehicle was used with the permission of its owner.
In other cases, there may have been no intent to take ownership of a vehicle, and the plaintiff may not be able to provide evidence that the defendant had any intent to take the vehicle.
Circumstantial evidence is often used to demonstrate intent, and having the proper legal defense can help you present your case and avoid conviction.
Presenting the proper evidence lets you counter the arguments made by the plaintiffs and prevent prosecutors from proving certain aspects of your case.
The best way to defend your rights in an auto theft case is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. You’ll determine what options will provide the best results and ensure that all of your rights are protected under Georgia law.