Defending Against An Auto Theft Charge In Florida
Auto theft is one of the more serious charges a person can face in Florida, with felony charges and prison time at stake if a person is convicted. Not all auto theft cases are the same, however, and it is possible a simple misunderstanding could lead to criminal charges against somebody that used a vehicle without the intent to steal it.
Motor vehicle thefts are a common occurrence, with about 40,000 vehicles stolen each year in Florida. Regionally, Orlando and Orange County rank right behind Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in auto theft rates. About 3,500 vehicles are stolen in Orange County each year. Given the frequency of car thefts and the danger these crimes pose to residents and tourists alike, law enforcement will crack down hard on those they find behind the wheel of a vehicle they don’t own.
What is Florida’s Law on Auto Theft?
Under Florida Statutes Sec. 812.014, a person commits theft then they:
- Knowingly obtain or use property;
- With the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the rightful owner of their use of the property.
The taking of a motor vehicle is considered to be grand theft and punishable as a third-degree felony in Florida. Under Florida law, a “motor vehicle” is not just a car or SUV. Theft of motorcycles, trucks, semi trailers, trailers, or any vehicle that can be used on roads to transport people or property can be considered a motor vehicle for purposes of prosecution.
The language of the law means that even taking another person’s car for a joyride or “borrowing” without permission can be charged as auto theft. Additionally, you don’t necessarily have to be behind the wheel to be charged with auto theft in Florida. If a stolen vehicle is broken down and sold for parts, anybody involved with those acts can be implicated in a grand theft auto charge.
What are the Penalties for Auto Theft in Florida?
Penalties for those convicted can include up to 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and a driver’s license suspension of at least 6 months. In addition to statutory fines, a defendant can also face costs associated with any damage to the vehicle, or even replacement of the vehicle. All told, someone convicted of auto theft can potentially face tens of thousands in costs they have to pay in addition to a lengthy jail time.
A person charged or convicted of grand theft auto in Florida can also face serious personal and professional setbacks in relation to the criminal charge. A person that relied on driving to get to work, for example, could lose employment when their license is suspended due to a criminal charge.
The Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at Joshi Law Firm, PA Are Here to Help if You Face a Charge of Auto Theft in the Orlando, Florida Area
An auto theft charge can turn a person’s world upside down – especially if they believe there is an innocent explanation for what happened. In auto theft cases, prosecutors must prove that a defendant had knowledge and intent to commit the crime of theft. Our proven Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Joshi Law Firm will thoroughly review the prosecution’s evidence to determine a strong legal strategy. In some situations, our aggressive representation can lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges. To learn more, call our legal team today at 407-661-1109, or complete our online case questionnaire.