Grand Theft Auto Defense Lawyer

A Serious Crime that Deserves a Serious Defense

Stealing an automobile in Tennessee is a serious crime, but the severity of any punishment will depend on many factors. Under Tennessee law, theft involves taking or exercising control over someone else’s property without the owner’s permission and with the intention to deprive the owner of the property.

In other words, you were stealing.

If you have been picked up for stealing an automobile, you are facing serious penalties, but you do have some possible defenses. Please contact one of our Manchester criminal defense attorneys today for more information.

Severity of the Offense

In our state, the severity of the crime depends on the value of the vehicle that you stole. Tennessee Code § 39-14-105 lays out the statutory scheme:

  • Class A misdemeanor: property is worth $1,000 or less
  • Class E felony: property is worth more than $1,000 but less than $2,500
  • Class D felony: property is worth more than $2,500 but less than $10,000
  • Class C felony: property is worth more than $10,000 but less than $60,000
  • Class B felony: property is worth more than $60,000 but less than $250,000
  • Class A felony: property is worth at least $250,000

Most vehicles are worth more than $1,000, so chances are the defendant is facing felony charges, which can permanently impact a person’s criminal record.

Defenses to the Crime

Our lawyers always emphasize that an arrest is not a conviction. Often, we can defend against a crime by disproving one element. For example, look again at the elements of theft:

  • The defendant has intent to deprive the owner of the property
  • The defendant knowingly gains possession of or exercises control over the property
  • The owner did not effectively consent

For example, we might challenge that the defendant had the requisite intent to deprive the owner of the car. Instead, the defendant might only have wanted to go joyriding but always intended to bring the car right back. If so, then the defendant might be convicted of joyriding, which is a class A misdemeanor.

Depending on the facts, we might challenge whether our client knowingly exercised control or possessed the car. For example, someone else might have stolen the car and parked it in our client’s garage without him knowing. In this case, he has not committed theft.

We can also claim the owner effectively consented, either explicitly or apparently. For example, the owner might have thrown the keys at our client and told him to use the car. This could qualify as consent that can negate a theft charge.

Penalties for Auto Theft in Tennessee

The punishment will depend on whether the defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony:

  • Class A misdemeanor: less than a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
  • Class E felony: one to six years in prison, up to $3,000 in fines.
  • Class D felony: two to 12 years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Class C felony: three to 15 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines
  • Class B felony: eight to 30 years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines
  • Class A felony: 15-60 years in prison, up to $50,000 in fines

Every case is different, so please contact an experienced Manchester criminal defense lawyer at Burch & Lockhart today. We can immediately swing into action to provide a defense.