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Criminal defense attorney

Torrance Auto Theft LAwyer

We Handle Cases Throughout Los Angeles County and the South Bay

A conviction in California for auto theft is a grave offense that should not be taken lightly. You could face jail or prison time, hefty fines, and a lengthy and restrictive probation period. In these cases, navigating the California criminal justice system can be stressful and overwhelming. 

At Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we believe that seasoned and proven legal representation is essential to secure the best possible defense. Our team consists of trial-tested criminal defense lawyers, which includes Mr. Ernenwein’s professional expertise as a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist. 

Our firm has built an impressive reputation for legal proficiency and excellent client service. We strongly urge you to discuss your case directly with one of our attorneys to get the legal guidance you need in building a defense. 

Schedule a free case evaluation with a Torrance auto theft defense lawyer. Send us an email or call (310) 361-3068 today.

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How Does California Define Auto Theft?

Auto theft can involve several different unlawful acts. 

These include entering a locked vehicle with the following intents:

  • To steal the vehicle. Also known as grand theft auto, it is outlined in California Penal Code 487(d)(1), which makes it unlawful to steal another’s vehicle without their consent and with the intent to deprive them of it. 
  • To steal items inside the vehicle, which can be grand or petty theft. 
  • To engage in joyriding. This falls under Vehicle Code 10851 VC.
  • To commit another felony inside the vehicle.

Auto Theft Penalties

California law categorizes auto theft as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the crime’s circumstances and your past criminal history. 

As a misdemeanor, the penalties for auto theft can include up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $5,000. If charged as a felony, you can face imprisonment for 16 months, two or three years, and a fine of up to $10,000.

What Is the Difference Between Auto Theft & Carjacking?

In California, auto theft and carjacking involve the unlawful taking of a vehicle, but significant differences exist between these offenses.

Auto theft occurs when you unlawfully take or drive away with someone’s vehicle, typically without the owner’s presence.

Carjacking is a more severe crime. According to California Penal Code § 215, carjacking occurs when the vehicle is stolen in the owner's presence, usually involving the use of force or fear. This means that you used physical violence or threats of injury to the owner or passengers involved. 

The intent behind carjacking does not necessarily have to be permanently depriving the owner of their vehicle; the action could be a temporary deprivation. This offense is always charged as a felony punishable by a three-, five-, or nine-year prison term. 

Carjacking involves a more direct confrontation and potential harm to the vehicle's owner, which is why it carries more severe penalties.

  • I cannot thank Robert enough for his efforts, knowledge, and execution in my case. He gave me a second chance.
    - Kevin Q.
  • Michelle has had a profound impact on my life. She not only has a firm grasp of legal matters, but also of human emotions. This dynamic duo worked all hours of the day and night on my case. They exerted effort way beyond the amount that I had paid them.
    - Khadijeh K.
  • If you are in need of a great attorney with an abundance of experience as well as a very professional office staff who constantly will keep you updated, call Ernenwein & Mathes!
    - Jake L.
  • They are the gold standard for defense attorneys. A+
    - Former Client

    Possible Defenses Against Auto Theft

    Depending on your particular auto burglary charge, a California auto theft defense can include the following:

    “It was not your intent to steal” defense: If you were inside a vehicle but did not intend to steal anything from it, you cannot be convicted of auto burglary. Even if you did break into a car or truck, planning to steal valuables or money from the vehicle, a prosecutor would have a difficult time proving this allegation. It should be recognized, though, that it is within the rights of police officers to charge you with auto burglary in this type of situation.

    “The vehicle door was not locked” defense: This type of auto burglary defense is significant, as a vehicle’s doors must be locked if you are found guilty of automobile burglary in California. To be convicted of this charge, you must alter the vehicle’s physical condition by breaking a window or a seal.

    “You did not have the intent to deprive” defense: This defense is used in a situation in which you had no intention of keeping the vehicle in question. Instead, you intended to use the vehicle temporarily and, in turn, had no intent to deprive the owner of their vehicle permanently.

    “You received consent from the vehicle’s owner” defense: You must enter a vehicle without the consent of the owner to be charged with auto burglary. Thus, permission from the rightful owner of the car or truck negates this element altogether.

    Our team can thoroughly investigate your case to determine the best defense strategy. We can help you navigate the complex legal proceedings, build a solid defense strategy, and work towards getting your charges potentially reduced or even dismissed. 

    At Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we are committed to providing an aggressive defense backed by extensive professional knowledge and experience. 

    Reach out to our firm at (310) 361-3068 for advice and guidance. 

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