There’s nothing fun or game-like about being charged with grand theft auto (or grand larceny automobile) in Texas. If you are convicted of this crime, you can expect to spend a minimum of 180 days in jail plus fines. Aside from that, you may be put on record as a thief, even if all you did was borrow your neighbor’s car. It is in your best interest to get a criminal lawyer as soon as possible after being charged with grand theft auto to mitigate the situation as early as possible.
There is no section in the Texas Penal Code that deals specifically with automobile theft, grand or otherwise. Stealing (or borrowing without permission) a motorized vehicle falls under Title 7 Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code which deals with theft of property in general. The severity of the charges will depend on the value of the car. This ranges from a Class B misdemeanor for vehicles with a market value of less than $500 to a 1st degree felony for vehicles valued at over $200,000. Surprisingly though, there is a section dealing specifically with the “Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle” (Texas Statutes – Section 31.07). It is considered a state jail felony with a minimum penalty of 180 days imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.
Charges can be escalated if a weapon was used to execute the theft, if the defendant is a government contractor or in public service, and/or has prior convictions for theft. Other factors that can increase severity of the charges include when the victim is elderly or the vehicle is the property of a non-profit organization.
If you ever come under suspicion for theft of an automobile, don’t wait for an indictment to get legal representation. Not all charges will end in conviction if the case is handled properly.