The back of a man in handcuffs

Vehicle Theft in California

Picture of the back of a man wearing handcuffsCalifornia Vehicle Code 10850 addresses the theft and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of possession of the vehicle with the intention of stealing it. Any person who steals a motor vehicle is subject to a jail term of not more than one year and/or a fine not to exceed $5,000. Any accomplices are subject to the same penalties.

The statute turns on the intent of the accused to either temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of possession of the vehicle. The crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony for grand theft auto under California Penal Code 487. What seems to control how a person is charged is the issue of whether they intended to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of possession of the vehicle.

Notwithstanding how a person might be charged, there are several defenses. The first and most obvious defense would be that the vehicle either belonged to the accused, or they reasonably believed that the vehicle belonged to them. This might be seen in the context of a divorce. If the vehicle wasn’t titled in the name of the accused, it might be shown that they possessed it with the consent of the lawful owner. The defendant might also show that they thought they had consent to be in possession of it. The third defense turns on intent. If a person steals a vehicle and merely intends on going on a joyride, they’re most likely to be charged pursuant to Vehicle Code 10850 as opposed to Penal Code 487. Their passengers might also be charged accordingly.

A person can be found guilty of theft of a motor vehicle without even moving it. It also doesn’t matter whether they were in possession of the vehicle for ten seconds or ten months. Whether one intended to actually steal the vehicle might also be irrellevant because the accused need only be found to have deprived the lawful owner of possession.

Each county in the California Superior Court system has its own bail bond criteria and schedule. Once a person appears before a judge for a bail bond hearing, the risk of them remaining in jail increases because the judge might set a bail bond that’s higher than that shown in the schedule. A bail agency knows these schedules. There are many times when an agency can obtain the release of a person being held in custody before their risk increases by having to appear in front of a judge. The person can then return to their regular home and work with minimal interruption. It’s also much more convenient to prepare the defense of a case from the office of their attorney as opposed to a jail cell.

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