Vehicle theft is a serious crime in the state of California, and the severity of these laws leave no doubt that stealing cars is going to cost you money and jail time. California Penal Codes 10850 and 10851 handle vehicle thefts, which are somewhat separate from grand theft. Even if stealing a car doesn’t fall under grand theft auto, it is imperative for a person accused of vehicle theft to get a good lawyer, because the consequences of a conviction are very harsh.
Though the State of California defines what constitutes vehicle theft and the punishments that may be given upon conviction, each individual county is responsible for choosing their own bail amount related to the crime, as well as selecting between and enforcing the preset sentences provided by the State.
Definition of Vehicular Theft
VC 10850 defines vehicular theft as the taking of another’s vehicle without their consent, with the intent to at least temporarily deny the owner of the possession of their vehicle. This basically means anyone who takes another person’s vehicle without their consent, even if they plan on returning it, has committed vehicular theft.
Anyone who is an accomplice or party to this crime is also considered to have violated the statute. The law is simple and straightforward, though it does have a separate subsection relating to the theft of emergency vehicles or vehicles modified for use by disabled persons; a charge dealt with more severely.
Bail Bond Amounts
Bail amounts will vary between counties due to the fact that each county’s Superior Court sets forth their individual bail schedules. This list of crimes also gives their corresponding preset bail amounts. By using the bail schedule, the bail agency in many cases can get the accused out of jail within hours without first having to see a judge, for a mere fraction of the face amount of the bail.
This charge, however, may require a PC 1275 hearing to determine the legitimacy of the funds used to post the defendant’s bail, so be sure to check with Bail Hotline to determine whether this code applies and, if so, how to prove to the court that your bond is posted with legal money.
Los Angeles and Santa Clara Counties both set bail for vehicle theft at $5,000 for people arrested of vehicular theft. San Benito County often refers to temporary vehicle theft as ‘joyriding’ and has this bail amount set for ten thousand dollars. A person in that county with a prior felony conviction, however, will face a $40,000 amount.
Penalties and Consequences
Fines and jail time related to a vehicular theft conviction can vary. Strictly speaking, vehicular theft is considered a ‘wobbler,’ which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. A person charged with a misdemeanor will face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to five thousand dollars. A person could be charged with a felony if they steal an emergency vehicle or vehicle modified for a disabled person, have been convicted of a similar felony before or steal a vehicle worth a certain amount of money. A conviction under these terms will bring a term in prison of two, three or four years and a fine that can reach up to $10,000.
Vehicular theft is punished severely by the State of California upon conviction. Anyone accused of this crime will want a bond posted as soon as possible in order to prepare a defense. A conviction of this magnitude could potentially rob a person of his or her freedom for years, so it is imperative to find help from someone who knows exactly how the California legal system works.