When an individual is caught stealing a motor vehicle, they can be charged with grand theft auto or carjacking. Unlike the popular video game, grand theft auto has serious legal consequences in the state of Florida. Any person convicted of grand theft auto can be forced to pay high-cost fines, face long-term prison sentences, or both.

Florida has a complex legal landscape when it comes to theft offenses. It is important to have a full understanding of grand theft auto charges, the potential penalties, and defenses if you or someone you know is facing criminal prosecution.

If you have been charged with grand theft auto, it is in your best interest to consult with a skilled Palm Beach defense attorney in your area.

South Florida Grand Theft Auto Attorney

Getting charged with grand theft auto has the potential to seriously impact your future. Facing these charges alone can be stressful and confusing. However, working with an experienced defense attorney in South Florida is a step in the right direction to fight your charges and earn back your future. Contact the Law Offices of Ian Goldstein today at (561) 600-0950 and receive a free consultation regarding your case.


Theft is defined under Florida Statute Section 812.014 as the offense when an individual uses or obtains the property belonging to another person. For a person to be charged with theft, it implies that they have either temporarily or permanently:

  • Deprived the owner of their right to the property; or
  • Appropriated the owner’s property to their own use, or for the use of another person who is not the owner.

In Florida, theft charges are classified as petit theft or grand theft. Petit theft is a misdemeanor offense, for any stolen item or property valued over $100 but under $750. Grand theft is the more serious charge and is a felony offense for any stolen item or property valued at or over $750.

Charges for Grand Theft Auto

Florida Statute Section 812.014 explains that any theft case involving a stolen motor vehicle will be charged as grand theft auto. Despite petit theft and grand theft being solely dependent on the value of the stolen property, grand theft auto is considered a felony offense even in instances where the vehicle is valued below the grand theft threshold.

However, the specific fines and sentencing requirements will still depend on the value of the stolen motor vehicle. Grand theft auto charges can range from a first-, second-, or third-degree felony. The following breaks down each grand theft auto charge:

  • Third-degree felony – A defendant will be charged with a third-degree felony for grand theft auto if the stolen motor vehicle is valued at less than $20,000.
  • Second-degree felony – A defendant will be charged with a second-degree felony for grand theft auto if the stolen motor vehicle is valued over $20,000 and less than $100,000.
  • First-degree felony – A defendant will be charged with a first-degree felony for grand theft auto if the stolen motor vehicle is valued at $100,000 or more.

Keep in mind that depending on the specific circumstances of the alleged offense, there may be additional charges. For example, a defendant accused of grand theft auto who is accused of using force or violence during the commission of the offense may be charged with a more severe offense, such as assault or carjacking.

Charges for Carjacking

Despite some misconceptions, grand theft auto and carjacking are two different offenses.

Florida Statue Section 812.133 defines carjacking as the taking of a motor vehicle belonging to another person, with the intent to deprive them of the use of the motor vehicle permanently or temporarily. Unlike grand theft auto, carjacking includes the use of force, violence, assault, or instilling fear into the victim.

Carjacking is considered a first-degree felony. Regardless of whether the defendant possessed a weapon or firearm, any carjacking offense is classified as a first-degree felony under Florida law.

Failing to Return a Leased Motor Vehicle

Florida has specific laws in place to prevent any person from defrauding a car rental or leasing company. Under Florida Statute Section 812.155, any person who leases a motor vehicle exceeding $300 in value, with an agreement to return it to the person or entity and fails to do so, can be charged with a third-degree felony.


The following lists the penalties for each degree of grand theft auto:

  • Third-degree felony – Up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years of imprisonment
  • Second-degree felony – Up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years of imprisonment
  • First-degree felony – Up to $10,000 in fines and up to 30 years of imprisonment

Defenses to Grand Theft Auto

Even if you have already been charged with grand theft auto, it is important to remember that an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction. Theft charges are complex, and therefore have multiple defenses applicable to you. To determine which defenses are most appropriate for your case, we highly recommend first speaking with a defense attorney near you.

The following is a list of possible defenses to a grand theft auto charge:

  • Defendant had equal ownership of the motor vehicle;
  • Defendant lacked the intent to deprive the owner of their motor vehicle;
  • False accusations;
  • Mistaken identity; or
  • Defendant was given consent by the owner of the motor vehicle.

Contact the Law Offices of Ian Goldstein to receive a free consultation and discuss possible defenses to your case.

Contact a South Florida Defense Attorney

Theft charges are taken seriously in Florida, especially when the theft offense deprives a person of access to their motor vehicle. If you or a loved one has been charged with grand theft auto, contact an experienced South Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. With the right attorney by your side, you can strategize a defense to fight your case.

The defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law have worked with defendants across the Sunshine State in need of criminal defense. We have a broad knowledge of theft laws in Florida, and how to fight these types of charges. Receive a free consultation today by calling our office at (561) 600-0950.

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