If you take another person’s car in Canada without his or her consent, it may lead to two types of charges. First, you might be guilty under the law (1) for committing a grand theft auto offense. You might also be guilty of joyriding. Whether the prosecutor charges you with grand theft auto or joyriding will depend on how long you intended to retain the vehicle. You might get a grand theft auto conviction if you want to keep the car permanently or for a substantial period. If you intended to drive the car for a short distance and then return it to the owner, you would face joyriding charges. The crime of grand theft auto may attract hefty penalties, including jail time and fines. Get in touch with our Criminal Lawyer for legal representation if you are facing charges of grand theft auto.
Grand theft auto is a specific type of felony involving the theft of motor vehicles. The illegal act may also be charged as “motor vehicle theft.” The term “grand theft auto” has been popularized by the media and continues to be used by some police departments today. Most provinces will charge auto theft as a felony, and if the vehicle is deemed to be valuable then the case will be considered a “grand theft” case.
Canadian Criminal Code for Motor vehicle theft states:
333.1 (1) everyone who commits theft is, if the property stolen is a motor vehicle, guilty of an offence and liable
(a) on proceedings by way of indictment, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years, and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months in the case of a third or subsequent offence under this subsection; or
(b) On summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months.
Joyriding is taking a car without intending to keep it. In contrast, a person who steals a car (grand theft auto) does not intend to return it to the owner. Usually, auto theft is a more serious crime than joyriding.
The unlawful taking or use of a vehicle, or joy riding, is characterized by taking a car that is not your own without the owner’s consent with the intent to deprive the owner of use of their car either permanently or temporarily, even if for a short amount of time. You do not need to intend to steal the vehicle but rather simply deprive the owner of the use of their car. An example of joyriding is taking an unlocked car around the block on a whim with no intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. Key to a joyriding case is that the defendant did not intend to steal the vehicle. Having been given consent to take and use the vehicle at some point may not be a legal defense. You must have had permission to use the vehicle in that particular instance for it to be a lawful use.
With the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, you can fight grand theft charges. The offenses of Canada’s grand theft auto and illegal taking of a car are severe, and the penalties are detrimental. Your criminal lawyer can negotiate to have the prosecutor reduce your charges to a lesser offense. Some of the typical legal defenses include:
The offender did not specifically intend to permanently deprive the victim of the property. Therefore, when a defendant, at the time of the taking, decides they only want to steal the property for a short period of time, the intent to permanently deprive them is missing. In such an instance, the defendant’s actions may still constitute a crime, or the defendant may be sued in civil court. However, a defendant has not committed theft or larceny, because the intent to permanently deprive is not present.
The defenses to grand theft auto begin with consent of the owner. This can be a tough defense to assert because the owner is most often the person who calls police to begin the case. Usually, the police, before going to the trouble of investigating further, make sure that the owner’s permission was never given for the client to take the car. However, the client may argue or believe that because the owner gave the client permission to use the car in the past, such permission continued.
In some cases, we may be able to prove you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity. Perhaps you were given permission to use the vehicle, but then accused of stealing it from an owner with other motives, such as anger or revenge.
In certain circumstances, we might be able to make an argument if you had a reasonable belief, even though it was later shown to be mistaken, the vehicle belonged to you. This is commonly known as the “claim of right” defense. If we could cast doubt on this important factor, you might be able to avoid a conviction or have the charges reduced to a lesser offense. This strategy is to show a good faith belief and your intent was not to steal the vehicle.
If you are charged with joyriding or auto theft, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney about your case. An attorney can tell you what you can expect in court and the likely outcome of your case based on the law in your province, the facts of your case, and the assigned judge and prosecutor. A criminal conviction can have a lasting negative impact on your life and the best way to avoid a criminal conviction is to work with an experienced attorney.
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