In the state of Minnesota, any theft of a vehicle results in a felony charge of grand theft auto (GTA). Grand theft auto is part of the state’s broader statute related to theft, which refers to taking of someone else’s property. If you’ve been charged with grand theft auto, don’t delay in consulting with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney.
Is It Grand Theft Auto or Is It Joyriding?
It’s important to recognize that, in Minnesota, the law does not distinguish between taking a car without consent and without the intention of returning it and taking a car without consent with the intention of returning it. If you take someone else’s car for any reason, and for any length of time, and do not have the owner’s consent, the act amounts to grand theft auto. In most other states, if you take someone else’s car without the intention of permanently depriving the owner of their vehicle, it’s considered joyriding, often a misdemeanor charge. In Minnesota, there is no joyriding statute.
What Are the Elements of a Grand Theft Auto Charge?
To be charged with grand theft auto, all of the following elements must apply:
• You drove a vehicle or otherwise took it.
• The vehicle was owned by someone else.
• The owner of the vehicle did not give you consent to do so.
If you can demonstrate that one of these elements does not apply, you can begin to build a solid legal defense against the charge of GTA.
If You Are Convicted
If you are convicted of grand theft auto in Minnesota, you can face imprisonment of up to 5 years and fines of up to $10,000, in addition to being liable for any damage to the stolen vehicle that occurred while it was in your possession. Further, having a felony on your record can have a detrimental and significant impact of your personal and professional life:
• It can limit your ability to secure housing since many landlords do background checks and will not rent to convicted felons.
• It can limit your educational opportunities since federal lenders won’t provide student loans to convicted felons. Your conviction can also make it less likely to be accepted as a student into an institution of higher education.
• It can limit your employment opportunities since most employers do background checks and many won’t hire convicted felons. A felony could also cause you to lose your professional licensure.
Suffice to say that the negative consequences of a grand theft auto conviction are serious.
Bringing Your Strongest Defense
If you are facing grand theft auto charges, it’s time to consider your defense. While the charges you face are unique to the circumstances involved, there are some basic defense strategies that could apply. These include:
• A case of mistaken identity – Your accuser could simply have the wrong person and may have mistaken you for someone else.
• Lack of evidence – To prove that you committed grand theft auto, the prosecution must be able to demonstrate that each element listed above applies, meaning they need evidence to back up each element. If they can’t prove that you didn’t have consent or that you even took the car in the first place, they can’t convict you of GTA. It’s the burden of the prosecution to prove your guilt. If they don’t have adequate evidence, that task can become very difficult.
• Consent – If the owner of the vehicle gave you consent to use their vehicle, you cannot be convicted of grand theft auto. While prior consent does not amount to consent, if your accuser did provide you with consent in the past, it may help you make the point that you believed you had their current consent. People have been known to lie, and if the owner of the car in question did consent to you driving it (but is now denying said consent), you will need to concentrate your efforts on proving as much.
Speak with a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Grand theft auto charges are always serious, If you find yourself on the wrong end of such a charge, the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller in Minneapolis are on your side and are ready to get to work protecting your legal rights and bringing your case to a positive conclusion. Your case is important, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 612.440.3212 today.