California Grand Theft Automobile Law
Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC & Vehicle Code 10851 VC

Thanks to the popular video game, almost everyone has heard of "grand theft auto."  But there is nothing fun and games about the California crime of vehicle theft...or the steep penalties that may be imposed for violating California's auto theft laws.

Auto theft or vehicle theft in California can actually lead to charges for one of two different offenses. These are:

  1. Grand theft auto (sometimes called "GTA") under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC . . . which is a form of the crime of grand theft,1 and
  2. The unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle (often known as "joyriding") under Vehicle Code 10851 VC. 2

The difference between the two offenses basically revolves around how long you intended to keep the car you took.

If you intended to keep the car permanently  or for a substantial period of time, you will likely be charged with grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC.

But if you just intended to take the car for a short spin, there is a good chance you will be charged with joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851 VC.3

Even though auto theft rates have been declining steadily in America, law enforcement agencies still put a lot of effort into solving and prosecuting vehicle theft cases. In 2011, 85% of all automobiles stolen in California were recovered.4

Examples

Examples of the California crime of grand theft auto include:

  • Stealing a car to use as a getaway car from another crime,
  • Stealing a car intending to sell it for parts, but then getting cold feet and abandoning it (this would be charged under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC), and
  • Taking someone else's car intending only to ride in it for a couple of hours with your friends and then leave it behind in the neighborhood where you found it (this would be charged under Vehicle Code 10851 VC).
Penalties

Both grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC and joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851 VC are technically wobblers in California law.

This means that they both may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on (1) the circumstance of your case, and (2) whether you have any prior convictions for this or other offenses.5

But in practice, GTA under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC is usually charged as a
felony. As such, it carries a potential jail sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years.6

In contrast, Vehicle Code 10851 VC unlawful taking of a vehicle is usually charged as a misdemeanor for first offenses. The potential penalties include a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000), imprisonment in the county jail for up to one (1) year, or both.7

Legal defenses

An experienced California theft crimes defense attorney may be able to help
you get your vehicle theft charges reduced or dismissed. There are several legal defenses that could be helpful with this, including:

  • You did not intend to steal (for GTA under Penal Code 487 PC only),
  • The car actually belonged to you . . . or you believed it did,
  • The person who owned the car consented to you taking it, and/or
  • You were falsely accused.

In order to help you better understand the crime of California auto theft (both California grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC and joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851 VC), our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following:

1. The Legal Definition of California Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC)
2. The Legal Definition of California "Joyriding" (Vehicle Code 10851 VC)
3. Penalties for Vehicle Theft in California

3.1. GTA (Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC) penalties

3.2. Unlawful taking of a vehicle (Vehicle Code 10851 VC) penalties

4. Legal Defenses to Vehicle Theft/Grand Theft Auto Charges
5. Grand Theft Auto/Joyriding and
Related Offenses

5.1. Penal Code 459 PC burglary and auto burglary

5.2. Penal Code 215 PC carjacking

5.3. Penal Code 496 PC receiving stolen property

If after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Theft Crimes Lawyers; California Grand Theft Law Penal Code 487 PC; Legal Definition of a "Wobbler" in California Law; Legal Definition of a California Felony; Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; Penal Code 459 PC California Burglary; California Auto Burglary; Penal Code 215 PC California Carjacking; Definition of a 'Violent" Felony in California Law; California's Three Strikes Law and Proposition 36 Reforms; and Penal Code 496 PC California's Receiving Stolen Property Law.

1. The Legal Definition of California Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC)

The legal definition of the grand theft auto (or "GTA") in California involves several "elements" of the crime. These are facts that the prosecutor must be able to proven in order for you to be found guilty of GTA.

The elements of California GTA under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC are:

  1. You took a car owned by someone else;
  2. You didn't have permission from the owner to take the car;
  3. When you took the car, you intended either
  4. a. to deprive the owner of it permanently, or

    b. to take it away from the owner of it for a period of time long enough that s/he would be deprived of a significant portion of the value or enjoyment of it; AND
  5. You moved the car (this can be a very short distance) and kept it for a period of time (however brief).8
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Many people think that luxury cars are common targets of auto theft. But in fact one of the most commonly stolen cars in California is the humble Honda Accord...thanks to the active market for parts for this car.

Example: Miguel is unemployed and having major financial troubles. He knows some people who have made money stealing cars and selling them for parts . . . and has thought about doing this himself from time to time.

One day he sees a pizza delivery car pull up in front of his neighbor's house. The delivery man leaves the engine running when he takes the pizza up to the house.

Miguel sees his chance, runs out to the pizza delivery car, and starts to drive away in it. He is vaguely thinking he will be able to make some money by selling it.

But after he has driven a couple of blocks, Miguel gets cold feet. He turns off the engine, exits the delivery car, and tries to run away...but is immediately apprehended by a policeman who was parked in the vicinity.

If the prosecutor can prove that Miguel intended to keep the car and sell it for parts, then he may be convicted of GTA...even though he only actually drove the car a short distance and possessed it for a short time.

The elements above make up the legal description of the most common form of grand theft auto - also known as grand theft auto by larceny.  However, you can also commit the crime of grand theft auto by doing any of the following:

  1. Using false pretenses (that is, a lie or deceit) to persuade someone to give you ownership of their car,
  2. Using a trick to persuade someone to let you take possession of their car, or
  3. Using embezzlement to take someone else's car...or, in other words, abusing a position of trust to take someone else's car.9
Example: Marlene needs some bodywork done to her car, but she doesn't have the money to pay for it.

Lily, an acquaintance Marlene knows through her church, tells Marlene that she (Lily) has a friend who is an auto body mechanic and sometimes fixes people's cars for no charge as an act of charity. Lily offers to take Marlene's car to this mechanic for her, and Marlene gives her the keys.

But Lily does not take Marlene's car to a mechanic. Instead, she gives it to her teenage son as a gift.

Lily has committed grand theft auto by trick . . . and can be charged and convicted just as if she had hotwired and stolen a stranger's car.
2. The Legal Definition of California "Joyriding" (Vehicle Code 10851 VC)

The legal definition of an "unlawful taking of a vehicle" (aka "joyriding") under Vehicle Code 10851 VC is somewhat different from that of GTA.  The elements of the crime of joyriding are:

  1. You took or drove someone else's vehicle without their consent, and
  2. When you took the car, you intended to deprive the owner of it for any period of time.10

So the main difference between California GTA and California "unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle" is:

  • For California GTA, you need to have intended to steal the car permanently or for a long enough period of time to deprive the owner of significant value or enjoyment of it, BUT
  • For California "unlawful taking of a vehicle"/joyriding, you just need to have intended to deprive the owner of the car for any period of time...even half an hour or less!11
Img-gta-hotwire

Hotwiring a car is a common method of accomplishing either grand theft auto or unlawful taking/driving of a vehicle.

Example: Eric drives an old, beat-up car. He has a date scheduled with a woman he has met online, and he really wants to impress her.

As luck would have it, his neighbor and friend Frank is on vacation and has asked Eric to water his plants for him . . . so Eric has keys to Frank's house and can enter his garage. Frank has also left behind his new BMW.

So Eric "borrows" Frank's car for the night and returns it after his date is over.

Eric has committed the California crime of joyriding even though he never actually intended to steal Frank's car...or even deprive him of any significant value or enjoyment of it.

Another interesting difference between grand theft auto and joyriding is this:

  • As we discussed in Section 1 above, you can be convicted of GTA even if you had the owner's permission to take their car...provided that you obtained that permission through false pretenses/fraud or trick.12
  • However, if you have the owner's permission to take his/her car, you are not guilty of unlawful taking of a vehicle under Vehicle Code 10851 VC, period...even if you obtained that consent through fraud or deceit!
Example: Let's say Eric wants to use his neighbor Frank's new luxury car to impress a date...but Frank is not on vacation.

Eric doesn't think Frank will let him borrow the car for a date, so he makes up a story. He says that a friend of his wants to use a car like Frank's for a movie shoot...and that the owner of the car will get a credit at the end of the movie and a personal thank-you note from the famous star.

Frank is tempted by this and lets Eric take the car out for an afternoon and evening, thinking it will go to the movie shoot. In fact, Eric uses the car to take his date out.

Eric is not guilty of joyriding because he had Eric's permission to drive his car...even though he obtained that permission by means of a trick.
3. Penalties for Vehicle Theft in California

3.1. GTA (Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC) penalties

Grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC is a form of California grand theft (Penal Code 487 PC) and carries the same penalties as that crime.13

Therefore GTA is what is known as a wobbler in California law.14 This means that-in theory-it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on

  1. The circumstances of the offense, and
  2. The defendant's criminal history.

However, in practice, California prosecutors-such as the offices of the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the Orange County District Attorney-usually charge grand theft auto as a California felony.

The felony penalties for GTA in California are

  • sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in jail,15
  • a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000),16 or
  • both imprisonment and the fine.

Penalty enhancements for high-value cars

And if you happen to steal a particularly expensive car, you can receive an additional and consecutive prison sentence, as follows:

  • One (1) additional year if the car was worth more than sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), or
  • Two (2) additional years if the car was worth more than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) -which is rare but not unheard of (see, for example, this Ferrari priced at almost twice that amount)!17
Img-gta-ferr

3.2. Unlawful taking of a vehicle (Vehicle Code 10851 VC) penalties

Joyriding/unlawful taking of a vehicle under Vehicle Code 10851 VC is also...technically...a wobbler.18 But unlike Penal Code 487 GTA, joyriding charges are usually filed as a misdemeanor for first offenders.

If you are charged with Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding as a misdmeanor, the maximum penalties are up to one (1) year in county jail, a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000), or both.19

But note that the prosecutor always does have the option of charging Vehicle Code 10851 VC as a felony.  If s/he does so, you may face a sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years, or three (3) years,20 and/or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).21

Penalties for joyriding in an ambulance, police vehicle, or disabled placard vehicle

The penalties for unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle may increase if the vehicle you took was any of the following:

  1. An ambulance on an emergency call,
  2. A distinctively marked law enforcement or firefighting vehicle on an emergency call, or
  3. A vehicle modified for the use of a disabled person which displayed a distinguishing license plate or placard (like a disabled parking pass).22

Joyriding in any of these types of vehicles is a felony. It will carry a sentence of two (2), three (3) or four (4) years in jail, and/or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).23

But note that this additional penalty only applies if you knew . . . or reasonably should have known . . . that the vehicle was of one of these types.24

Example: On a dare, Scott, a high school student, takes a spin around town in a car that was parked on the street. He is later caught and charged with joyriding.

It turns out the car belonged to a disabled veteran and was modified for that person's use. The veteran did have a disabled parking placard . . . but it was hidden away in the glove compartment when Scott took the car.

The prosecutor probably cannot show that Scott knew or should have known that he had taken a disabled person's car, so Scott probably will not face enhanced felony penalties for his joyriding charge.

Prior felony vehicle theft convictions

The penalties and sentencing for a Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding violation change if you have any of the following on your record:

  1. One (1) or more prior convictions for felony joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851 VC,
  2. One (1) or more prior convictions for felony grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC, or
  3. One (1) or more prior convictions for stealing cargo worth more than $950 in violation of Penal Code 487h PC (this is a variation on the California crime of grand theft).25

If you have any of these prior convictions, then your unlawful taking of a vehicle charges will necessarily be felony charges. The potential sentence will be two (2) three (3), or four (4) years. Also, the maximum fine rises to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).26

4. Legal Defenses to Vehicle Theft/Grand Theft Auto Charges

As you can see, both grand theft auto and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle can be very serious charges in California.

Fortunately, with the help of an experienced California criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed by using certain common legal defenses.

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Some legal defenses that may apply to vehicle theft charges include:

Lack of intent (for Penal Code 487 PC GTA only)

If you are charged with grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC, you may be able to fight the charges by arguing that you did not intend to steal the car. This is because intent to steal is an essential part of the legal definition of GTA...as it is with all forms of California grand theft.27

But note that this defense will not work against charges of Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding...since intent to steal is not required under that law.28

According to Lancaster criminal defense attorney John Murray29 :

"When my clients are caught in someone else's car without permission, one strategy we always discuss is arguing that they didn't have the intent to steal, which is required by California's grand theft auto statute. If we can convince the prosecutor they don't have enough evidence of intent, it may be possible to get the charges reduced from GTA to 10851 VC joyriding...usually a misdemeanor that carries lighter penalties and is much less of a problem on someone's record."

Claim of right

Of course, you can't be convicted of grand theft auto or joyriding if the car you were driving actually belonged to you.

Not only that...but you can't be convicted of grand theft auto if you had a good faith belief that the property belonged to you . . .  regardless of whether that belief was correct.30

Example: Brad is going through a messy divorce. One day when he desperately needs a ride, he goes to his ex-wife's house-which until recently was his house-and takes one of the cars that he and his wife had shared. Brad is not aware that the car's title is only in his wife's name...and that the current draft of the divorce settlement has her getting the car.
Brad may be able to defend himself against grand theft auto charges by arguing that he reasonably believed the car still belonged partially to him.

Owner's consent

If the owner of the car that you allegedly stole consented to you taking the car, there is no theft . . . either grand theft auto or unlawful taking / driving of a vehicle.

As we mentioned above, consent is a defense to charges of joyriding under Vehicle Code 10851 VC (but not to GTA under Penal Code 487 PC) even when you obtained that consent by fraud or trick.31

However, consent is not a defense just because the owner may have given you permission to use his/her car in the past.32 Also, your use of the car must fall within the scope of the consent the owner gave.

False accusations

As with all California crimes, people are falsely accused of GTA and joyriding all too often.

Maybe an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend had given you permission to use his/her car...and then tried to "take back" that permission after a fight. Or maybe you were with a group of friends who committed joyriding together...and the others are asking you to take the fall.

A good criminal defense attorney can help piece together the important facts and poke holes in the prosecution's evidence...to help make sure that justice is done in this sort of case.

5. Grand Theft Auto/Joyriding and
Related Offenses

There are several related California crimes that are often charged along with . . . or instead of . . . California vehicle theft (either GTA or joyriding). Some of these are:

5.1. Penal Code 459 PC burglary and auto burglary

A Penal Code 459 PC California burglary is defined as entering a building or other enclosure with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside.33California auto burglary is the same thing...except that it involves entering a car, instead of a building, intending to commit a felony or theft.34

So let's say you are alleged to have entered someone's garage to steal their car. You might be charged with both California burglary (for entering the garage) and grand theft auto (for taking the car).

Or let's say you are alleged to have broken into a car intending to steal it. In that case, you may be charged with auto burglary...even if you didn't actually succeed in stealing the car!

Img-gta-breakin

Burglary is a felony, carrying a state prison term of up to (3) years. But the penalty can be up to six (6) years if it is committed in an inhabited house or trailer (that is, where someone is currently living).35

5.2. Penal Code 215 PC carjacking

If the allegation is that you took someone's car from them directly, using either physical force or the fear of physical force to get them to give you the car . . . you may be charged with both vehicle theft and Penal Code 215 PC California carjacking.36

Carjacking is a felony and carries a state prison sentence of three (3), five (5) or nine (9) years.37

Also, carjacking is considered a "violent" felony in California law...which means that it is a "strike" offense under California's Three Strikes law.38 For this reason, it is especially crucial to fight the carjacking charges if you find yourself charged under both California's carjacking law and one of California's vehicle/auto theft laws.

5.3. Penal Code 496 PC receiving stolen property

Penal Code 496 PC, California's receiving stolen property law, makes it a crime to do any of the following things with property you know to be stolen:

  • buy,
  • receive,
  • conceal,
  • sell, or
  • withhold

the stolen property.39

Under California law, you cannot be convicted of both receiving stolen property and the actual theft of the property.40 Therefore, you are unlikely to be charged with both receiving stolen property and grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC.

But Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding is a different story. If you buy or receive a vehicle that you know to be stolen...and then drive that vehicle...you may be charged with both receiving stolen property (for getting the car in the first place) and California joyriding (for driving the stolen car...naturally without the owner's consent).

However, whether you can be convicted of both receiving stolen property and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle is a tricky question. Generally speaking, if you receive or help someone conceal a stolen car...and then are charged with unlawfully driving it for a completely different act, usually occurring on a different day...you can be convicted of both.41

Example: Ricardo was given a stolen car on February 3. On February 7, he was caught and arrested while driving it. Because the act of receiving the car ... on February 3...and the act of unlawfully driving it (four days later) were separate, he can be convicted of both receiving stolen property and Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding.42
Call Us for Help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC & Vehicle Code 10851 VC grand theft auto and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

To learn about the crime of grand theft (grand larceny) auto in Nevada, you may visit our page on the crime of grand theft (grand larceny) auto in Nevada.

Legal References:

1 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft [including grand theft auto] defined. ("Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: (a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), except as provided in subdivision (b ). . . . (d) When the property taken is any of the following: (1) An automobile . . . .")

See also Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [including grand theft auto] defined. ("Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.")

2 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding]. ("a) Any person who drives or takes a vehicle not his or her own, without the consent of the owner thereof, and with intent either to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner thereof of his or her title to or possession of the vehicle, whether with or without intent to steal the vehicle, or any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, is guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.")

3 See same.

4 Department of California Highway Patrol, Vehicle Theft Statistics for 2011, Sept. 10, 2012.

5 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding], endnote 2, above.

See also Penal Code 489 PC - Grand theft [including grand theft auto]; punishment. ("Grand theft is punishable as follows: (a) When the grand theft involves the theft of a firearm, by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. (b) In all other cases, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.")

6 Penal Code 489 PC - Grand theft [including grand theft auto]; punishment, endnote 5, above.

See also Penal Code 1170(h) PC. ("(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.")

7 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding], endnote 2, above.

8 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 1800 - Theft [including grand theft auto] by Larceny (Pen. Code, § 484). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant took possession of property owned by someone else; 2 The defendant took the property without the owner's [or owner's agent's] consent; 3 When the defendant took the property (he/she) intended (to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner's [or owner's agent's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property); AND 4 The defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.")

9 Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [including grand theft auto] defined, endnote 1, above.

10 CALCRIM 1820 - Unlawful Taking or Driving of Vehicle [Joyriding], (Veh. Code, § 10851(a)(b)). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1. The defendant took or drove someone else's vehicle without the owner's consent; AND 2. When the defendant did so, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of possession or ownership of the vehicle for any period of time.")

11 Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [including grand theft auto] defined, endnote 1, above.

12 People v. Cook, (1964) 228 Cal.App.2d 716, 719. ("The above mentioned cases constitute specific applications of the basic common law rule that, unless there is statutory language to the contrary, whenever lack of consent is a necessary element of a crime, the fact that consent is obtained through misrepresentation will not supply the essential element of nonconsent [for a joyriding/unlawful taking of a vehicle conviction].")

See also CALCRIM 1820 - Unlawful Taking or Driving of Vehicle [Joyriding], Related Issues. ("The fact that an owner's consent was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation does not supply the element of nonconsent.")

13 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft [including grand theft auto] defined, endnote 1, above.

14 Penal Code 489 PC - Grand theft [including grand theft auto]; punishment, endnote 5, above.

15 See same.

16 Penal Code 672 PC - Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment. ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies [such as felony grand theft auto], in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

17 Penal Code 12022.6 PC. ("(a) When any person takes, damages, or destroys any property in the commission or attempted commission of a felony [including felony grand theft], with the intent to cause that taking, damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an additional term as follows: (1) If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of one year. (2) If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of two years.")

18 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding], endnote 2, above.

19 See same.

20 See same. See also Penal Code 1170(h) PC. ("(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.")

21 Penal Code 672 PC, endnote 16, above.

22 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding]. ("(b) If the vehicle is (1) an ambulance, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 165, (2) a distinctively marked vehicle of a law enforcement agency or fire department, taken while the ambulance or vehicle is on an emergency call and this fact is known to the person driving or taking, or any person who is party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, or (3) a vehicle which has been modified for the use of a disabled veteran or any other disabled person and which displays a distinguishing license plate or placard issued pursuant to Section 22511.5 or 22511.9 and this fact is known or should reasonably have been known to the person driving or taking, or any person who is party or an accessory in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing, the offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.")

23 See same, Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding].

24 See same, Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding].

25 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding]. ("(e) Any person who has been convicted of one or more previous felony violations of this section, or felony grand theft of a vehicle in violation of subdivision (d) of Section 487 of the Penal Code, former subdivision (3) of Section 487 of the Penal Code, as that section read prior to being amended by Section 4 of Chapter 1125 of the Statutes of 1993, or Section 487h of the Penal Code, is punishable as set forth in Section 666.5 of the Penal Code. The existence of any fact that would bring a person under Section 666.5 of the Penal Code shall be alleged in the information or indictment and either admitted by the defendant in open court, or found to be true by the jury trying the issue of guilt or by the court where guilt is established by plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or by trial by the court sitting without a jury.")

26 See same. See also Penal Code 666.5 PC. ("(a) Every person who, having been previously convicted of a felony violation of Section 10851 of the Vehicle Code [joyriding], or felony grand theft involving an automobile [GTA]  in violation of subdivision (d) of Section 487 or former subdivision (3) of Section 487, as that section read prior to being amended by Section 4 of Chapter 1125 of the Statutes of 1993, or felony grand theft involving a motor vehicle, as defined in Section 415 of the Vehicle Code, any trailer, as defined in Section 630 of the Vehicle Code, any special construction equipment, as defined in Section 565 of the Vehicle Code, or any vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code in violation of former Section 487h, or a felony violation of Section 496d regardless of whether or not the person actually served a prior prison term for those offenses, is subsequently convicted of any of these offenses shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years, or a fine of ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both the fine and the imprisonment.")

27 CALCRIM 1800 - Theft [including grand theft auto] by Larceny, endnote 8, above.

28 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding], endnote 2, above.

29 Lancaster criminal defense attorney John Murray is a highly regarded criminal defense and DUI lawyer working throughout Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties. He has secured numerous "not guilty" verdicts in cases involving both the California Penal Code and the California Vehicle Code (including section 10851, California's joyriding law).

30 People v. Tufunga, (1999) 21 Cal.4th 935. ("The claim-of-right defense [to grand theft, including grand theft auto, charges] provides that a defendant's good faith belief, even if mistakenly held, that he has a right or claim to property he takes from another negates the felonious intent necessary for conviction of theft or robbery. At common law, a claim of right was recognized as a defense to larceny because it was deemed to negate the animus furandi, or intent to steal, of that offense.")

31 CALCRIM 1820 - Unlawful Taking or Driving of Vehicle [Joyriding], Related Issues. ("The fact that an owner's consent was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation does not supply the element of nonconsent.")

32 Vehicle Code 10851 VC - Theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle [joyriding]. ("(c) In any prosecution for a violation of subdivision (a) or (b), the consent of the owner of a vehicle to its taking or driving shall not in any case be presumed or implied because of the owner's consent on a previous occasion to the taking or driving of the vehicle by the same or a different person.")

33 Penal Code 459 PC - Burglary and auto burglary [may be charged along with grand theft auto]. ("Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary. As used in this chapter, "inhabited" means currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not. A house, trailer, vessel designed for habitation, or portion of a building is currently being used for dwelling purposes if, at the time of the burglary, it was not occupied solely because a natural or other disaster caused the occupants to leave the premises.")

34 See same, Burglary and auto burglary [may be charged along with grand theft auto].

35 See Penal Code 460 PC; Penal Code 461 PC.

36 Penal Code 215 PC - Carjacking [may be charged along with vehicle theft]. ("(a) "Carjacking" is the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle of his or her possession, accomplished by means of force or fear. (b) Carjacking is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of three, five, or nine years.")

37 See same.

38 California Penal Code 667.5 PC. ("(c) For the purpose of this section, "violent felony" shall mean any of the following:...(17) Carjacking, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 215.")

See also California Penal Code 667 PC - California's Three Strikes Law. ("(b) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, to ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.")

39 Penal Code 459 PC - Receiving stolen property [may be charged along with Vehicle Code 10851 VC joyriding in certain circumstances]. ("(a) Every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. However, if the district attorney or the grand jury determines that this action would be in the interests of justice, the district attorney or the grand jury, as the case may be, may, if the value of the property does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), specify in the accusatory pleading that the offense shall be a misdemeanor, punishable only by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year. A principal in the actual theft of the property may be convicted pursuant to this section. However, no person may be convicted both pursuant to this section and of the theft of the same property.")

40 See same.

41 CALCRIM 1820 - Unlawful Taking or Driving of Vehicle, Bench Notes. ("If the defendant is charged with unlawfully driving or taking an automobile and with receiving the vehicle as stolen property, and there is evidence of only one act or transaction, the trial court has a sua sponte duty to instruct the jury that the defendant cannot be convicted of both stealing the vehicle and receiving a stolen vehicle.")

42 Based on People v. Strong, (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 366, 375-76.

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