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Automobile Theft Offenses

Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers Protecting Your Rights

When someone utters the term “grand theft auto,” most people think of the popular and controversial video game series. Like many aspects of the criminal justice system, the criminal offense of grand theft auto is one that has bled into country’s popular media and driven people’s expectations. For centuries, crime and punishment have been topics of popular culture. Books, movies, TV Shows and now video games depict the commission of crimes and the punishment handed down. Criminal actions and the associated aftermath are not matters for entertainment however. If you are charged with a crime, you should be sure to retain a skilled Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to have on your side.

Some of the most common criminal offenses involve automobiles. At the end of the day, crimes typically fall into one of two categories, crimes of passion and economic crimes. Theft and fraud are usually economic in nature, while offenses like domestic violence are usually crimes of passion. The offense of grand theft auto most commonly falls into the realm of economic crimes. Cars are common, valuable, and frankly easy to steal and resell. That combination makes the theft of cars very common. Carjacking is essentially the violent version of grand theft auto, comparable to the difference between theft and robbery.

Elements of Grand Theft Auto

The State of Florida has prohibited the taking of a motor vehicle owned by another person with the intent to deprive the owner of the use or possession of the vehicle. The deprivation can be either temporary or permanent in order to fall under the grand theft auto statute. Grand theft auto is a third degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. Typically in theft cases, the value of the property taken determines the degree of the offense. For example a theft of an item of low value might be a misdemeanor while the theft of a more valuable piece of property would be charged as a felony. Grand theft auto is a third degree felony regardless of the value of the vehicle.

Retaining an experienced Clearwater criminal defense lawyer can be essential to obtaining a positive result in your case. Police and prosecutors are often quick to charge people with grand theft auto even with little evidence to go off of. Commonly, a care will be stolen and then a report will be made to the police and the vehicle information will be uploaded to the police database. It is not uncommon for the stolen vehicle to change hands multiple times. Whoever gets pulled over driving the stolen vehicle often ends up charged with grand theft auto. A skilled lawyer can likely get a case like that thrown out because there is little to no evidence that the driver of the car actually participated in or even knew about the theft.


Carjacking and grand theft auto might seem, at first glance, to be similar offenses. Carjacking however is a much more serious criminal offense that carries heavier penalties. Much like the distinction between theft and robbery, carjacking is essentially grand theft auto with an element of violence. If a person steals a car from another and, in the process, employs force, violence or putting in fear, he or she can be convicted of carjacking. While grand theft auto is a mere third degree felony, carjacking is jumped up to a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years. And if, during the course of the carjacking, you are found to have been in possession of a weapon, you can be convicted of armed carjacking which is punishable by life behind bars. Because of the serious criminal penalties involved, you should not hesitate to consult a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney if charged with such a crime.

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The attorneys at Hanlon Law have the experience necessary to build the best defense for you. Don’t wait, call us today for a consultation 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... 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