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Motor Vehicle Theft in Florida

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2022 | Criminal Charges, Criminal Defense, Miami Criminal Law Blog |

In Florida, “theft” is defined as “the obtaining or using another’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property permanently or temporarily.” Therefore, a person who takes a vehicle for a joyride commits theft as well as a person who steals a vehicle intending to keep it. 

Theft that involves a “motor vehicle” isn’t limited to automobiles. This definition involves motorcycles, trucks, semitrailers, trailers, and any vehicle with a motor used to transport people or property. This concept does not include bicycles, mopeds, or subway vehicles. Returning the stolen vehicle will not change the type of charge.

Failure to Return a Rental Car

The obtaining of a car by renting it through a car rental service is completely legal. However, it is possible to face charges if the return of a car ends up in failure or if you keep it longer than the stipulated time in the agreement.

Fraudulent Retention

It is possible to face a charge after obtaining consent from the vehicle’s owner when that consent was given due to actions involving fraud, trickery, or deceit.


If the vehicle was obtained through assault, threats, or violence, the defendant might be charged with carjacking and additionally with assault charges. 


The penalties for grand theft auto (including joyriding) depend on the value of the vehicle and the circumstances involved.

Third-degree felony occurs when:

The motor vehicle is valued at less than $20,000. Penalties for this include up to 5 years in prison and/or fines up to $5,000. This charge also includes the incident of failure to return a rental car.

Second-degree felony occurs when:

The vehicle is valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000. Penalties for this charge might include a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.

First-degree felony occurs when:

The stolen property is a semitrailer deployed by a law enforcement officer or any vehicle valued at $100,000 or more. It also occurs when a person also commits a felony in the first degree by using a motor vehicle to commit grand theft. Carjacking is included in this section. The penalties for this include prison sentences of up to 30 years and/or fines of up to $10,000. Carjacking With a Deadly Weapon may result in penalties of up to life in prison and/or fines of up to $15,000. 


Defenses to Auto Theft

Some common defense strategies are: 

Lack of intent: The prosecutor will need to prove the intent and if the defense needs to prove there wasn’t any intent to commit theft.

Misunderstanding: The defendant needs to prove he/she had the belief that he/she had permission to take possession of the vehicle.

Auto Theft is a criminal charge that needs to be taken seriously. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with the crime of auto theft, it is imperative to have a professional and experienced attorney on your side. Attorney Russell Spatz has over four decades of experience.

To meet with Attorney Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200.








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