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Grand Theft Auto and Carjacking

Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing St. Petersburg Residents

Grand Theft Auto is not just the name of a popular video game series. In fact, the game gets its name from the associated criminal offense. While popular culture and video games may have romanticized the idea of car theft, the reality is that grand theft auto is a serious criminal offense that often leaves victims in a helpless situation and demanding serious penalties. Anyone charged with Grand Theft Auto should reach out to a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer right away.

When most people think of the activities that take place in the Grand Theft Auto video game series, they think of a character forcing an innocent bystander out of a vehicle by force or at gunpoint. This act, under Florida law is much more likely to be construed as carjacking, which is a separate and much more serious offense. Both grand theft auto and carjacking are felonies that carry serious potential penalties and should not be taken lightly.

Elements of Grand Theft Auto

Grand theft auto carries a relatively simple definition. A person can be convicted of grand theft auto if he or she knowingly obtains, uses or attempts to obtain or use the property of another with the intent to deprive another person of the use of that property. In the case of grand theft auto, that property must be a motor vehicle. Typically, the offense level of a theft case is determined by the value of the property stolen. For example, if a person is convicted of theft of a cell phone, whether the case is a felony or a misdemeanor is determined by the market value of the phone itself. If the phone is worth less than $300, it is a misdemeanor offense. If the phone is worth more than that, it is a felony. Grand theft auto, on the other hand, is a felony offense no matter the value of the vehicle. While you may be hard-pressed to find a car worth less than $300 these days, the value of the car has no determination to the level of the offense.

Grand theft auto can sometimes be a difficult charge for the State to prove. A majority of grand theft auto cases are initiated when someone finds that their car has been stolen and make a police report. Later, the police pull someone over driving the stolen car. That person often gets charged with grand theft auto because they were in possession of the stolen property. However, to prove the case, the state must prove more than simple possession of stolen property. Many prosecutors will attempt to go forward on cases with little evidence other than that. However, a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney will be able to exploit this common error for your benefit.

Elements of Carjacking

Grand theft auto and carjacking are two different animals. Grand theft auto is a relatively minor offense when compared to the crime of carjacking. The differences between grand theft auto and carjacking mirror the differences between grand theft and robbery. Specifically, there are “fear and violence” elements to carjacking that do not apply to grand theft auto.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 812.133, a person is guilty of carjacking if he or she takes a vehicle from another with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive that person of the use of the vehicle and, in the course of the taking, uses “force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.” The seriousness of a carjacking charge cannot be overstated. While grand theft auto is only a third degree felony, carjacking is an automatic first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison. And if you are convicted of armed carjacking, you could potentially face a life sentence. If charged with any of these crimes, you should immediately seek out a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer.

Speak to our Lawyers

The attorneys at Hanlon Law are ready to help you get the best result possible on your case. Call us for a consultation today at 727.897.5413.

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As a practicing attorney, I was shocked to hear that a family member of mine was alleged to have committed a sex crime. Knowing full well the consequences this type of allegation can have on anyone and their future, I immediately reached out to William Hanlon for help. I had every confidence that Mr. Hanlon had the knowledge, expertise, and experience to handle this problem. Approximately 4 weeks from an initial conference with Mr. Hanlon, we received a call with the news that a letter of release was being issued and the case was being dropped. Now my family member can finally exhale, take a deep breath, and go on with his life. Thank you, William! Jerry
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I was facing a charge that if convicted would carry two years in prison minimally. Not only was he empathetic and listening to what I had to say but he arranged with the prosecutor for my charges not to be filed under terms of a pre trial investigation. Would highly recommend. Alec
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Mr. Hanlon did what no other lawyer could do. Not only did he turn my criminal history into a thing of the past so I could move on, he was a loyal associate. No matter how bad the situation is, he has miraculously cleared me on every charge since he became my lawyer 5 years ago. I have the best lawyer that the legal system has to offer. I have had other really good lawyers try to get my business, but I know that no one can do a better job than William Hanlon. Jesse