Grand Theft Auto and Joyriding Law in Georgia

In Georgia, a person accused of grand theft auto faces potentially severe criminal penalties. A conviction of a grand theft auto crime carries the possibility of prison and a fine. The accused may need to present one or more defenses to the charges.

Under the 2017 Georgia Code 16-8-2, a person commits the offense of theft by taking when he unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another intending to deprive him of the property, regardless of how the property is taken or appropriated.

Grand Theft Auto Conviction in Georgia

Taking a vehicle to drive around the block, or joyride, would not be deemed grand theft auto. If the accused were to take the vehicle and then move on to sell it, then a charge of grand theft auto is possible.

The following conditions must be consistent for a grand theft auto charge in Georgia:

  1. The accused drove or took the grand auto;
  2. The stolen vehicle was not the property of the accused;
  3. The owner did not permit the defendant to drive or take the vehicle; and
  4. The accused has intentions to deprive the victim permanently of the vehicle.

A defendant would face severe criminal sentences for a grand theft auto conviction in Georgia, especially if he or she stole the vehicle by force against the owner’s consent. In this condition, auto theft would be a form of robbery. As well as carjacking and kidnapping may even add the count of auto theft charges in particular circumstances. An example of auto theft and kidnapping would be if a nonconsenting passenger were in the automobile at the time.

What Are the Consequences of Grand Theft Auto?

In Georgia law, grand theft indicates the automobile was worth more than $500; therefore, the majority of stolen automobile thefts are commonly auto theft. According to the 2018 Georgia Code 17-10-5, it is at the court’s discretion if the offense of property valued over $500 is considered a felony or as a misdemeanor.

If the theft is a felony, the penalty is imprisonment of not less than 12 months and not more than ten years. Additionally, theft of a motor vehicle or vehicle part worth more than $100 bears a penalty of 1 to 10 years of imprisonment. Carjacking or high jacking shows the automobile was obtained by force and without the owner’s consent. Kidnapping may also be added to the count of auto theft charges if there was an unconsenting person in the stolen automobile at the time the defendant took it. Hijacking an automobile brings a punishment of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

A combination of the defendant’s criminal history and a weapon in use while taking the automobile, and the method in which the crime occurred like threats, force, or without the victim’s knowledge can increase the charges for theft by taking. Ultimately, the severity of the penalty depends on the circumstances of the crime and the court’s decision. 

How Is Grand Theft Auto Different From Carjacking?

Though carjacking and grand theft auto are both linked with the theft of an automobile, they differ in that carjacking includes violence. Grand theft auto happens without violence and usually when the owner is absent. If the carjacking occurred forcefully, and a defendant who commits this crime, may also be charged with robbery. The offense of carjacking can also happen if the vehicle got taken through intimidation and fear.

What Are Defenses for Grand Theft Auto Charges?

The two primary defenses are available for the defendant in Georgia: 

1. Intention

If an accused carry out the crime with the automobile but intends to give it back to the owner, the defendant has not committed the offense of theft, only the offense of illegal driving or taking of a car that is called joyriding. Joyriding is usually a misdemeanor and is a less severe crime than theft.

2. Consent

If the vehicle owner consented to the taking and driving, then there is no crime committed. However, the fact that the owner has allowed the defendant to take and drive the automobile does not confirm consent; the question is whether the accused had the owner’s consent to drive the vehicle on the specific occasion in question.

If a defendant drives the vehicle that is property to someone else, but the accused is sometimes authorized to drive and has keys such as a child driving a parent’s car, or a worker taking a boss’s vehicle, but the person is under the accusation of joyriding it comes down to proving intent. 

What’s the Auto Theft Task Force?

Lawmakers established a stolen vehicle restoration effort in October 2011 to control a large number of older vehicles taken for scrap metal. This effort is called “Operation Heavy Metal” and has a Task Force empowered to charge those that take and sell scrap metal to take responsibility for the seized automobiles. In Georgia, it is allowed to sell a 12-year vehicle for scrap metal without any title. Therefore some people take benefits of this legal loophole while others may wrongly find themselves penalized under the increased efforts of the task force.

Author: LegalPeak

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