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Grand Theft Auto Law & Defense
PC 487(d)(1) Crimes

There are several laws that cover the crime of taking a vehicle without permission in California. The most common of these charges include unlawful taking or tampering with a vehicle, also known as unauthorized use of vehicle (VC 10851),

Joyriding (PC 499), and grand theft auto (PC 478(d)(1).

This article is dedicated to a summary of the law, the punishment, and the common defenses associated with grand theft auto , or GTA. For information on other vehicle theft crimes, see unauthorized use of vehicle and joyriding.

Note: The main difference between the crimes of unauthorized use of vehicle (VC 10851(a)) and Vehicle Theft (GTA) PC 487(d)(1) is that VC 10851(a) charges do not require the district attorney to prove that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.

PC 487(d)(1) Law

Every person who takes a vehicle belonging to another person, with the intent to permanently deprive the other person of that  vehicle, and without the vehicle owner's consent or or other legal justification, is guilty of grant theft auto (PC 487(d)(1) Abbrev.).

Note: The district attorney can prove the defendant's intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the vehicle in several ways and usually by circumstantial evidence. For example, if a person takes another person's vehicle without consent, and thereafter drives the vehicle off a cliff, the the circumstances suggest that the defendant specifically intended to deprive the true owner of the vehicle permanently. This is known as unreasonably subjecting the vehicle to the risk of loss to circumstantially prove the defendant's intent.

Specific Intent: To prove PC 487(d)(1), the defendant must have had  the specific intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the vehicle at the time of the taking of the vehicle. For example, if the defendant intended to borrow the vehicle at the time of the taking, but later decided to keep the vehicle permanently, the defendant is not guilty of GTA. Again, circumstantial evidence will be used to prove (or defend against) the element of permanent deprivation of the vehicle.

Also, the vehicle must have actually moved in order to prove the defendant committed vehicle theft. For example, if the defendant is caught in the act of taking a vehicle, but the vehicle never actually moved, then the defendant may be charged with attempted vehicle theft (PC 664/487(d)(1). Attempted vehicle theft carries less jail penalties then vehicle theft.


PC 487(d)(1) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. When GTA is charged as a felony, the defendant could face up to three years in jail. When GTA is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant could face up to one year in jail.

Probation: A probation sentence may be available in some some grand theft auto cases depending on the circumstances. A probation sentence is in lieu of jail and usually includes an order for work release or house arrest as a condition of probation. Convictions of felony PC 487(d) may lead to formal probation, which requires a probation officer to monitor the defendant's progress while on probation. Convictions for misdemeanor PC 487(d) may progress to informal probation, which requires the court to monitor the defendant's progress while on Probation.

PC 1170(h) Sentencing: According to penal code section 1170(h), if the defendant is convicted of GTA and he or she is not granted a probation sentence, then the defendant may nevertheless have his or her jail sentence split or suspended. A split sentence is a jail sentence that is served partially in jail and partially out of jail on work release or house arrest. A suspended sentence is a jail sentence that might not be served at all if the defendant fulfills the conditions of his or her out of custody sentence.

CIMT: PC 487(d)(1) is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that the crime involves deceit . Crimes of moral turpitude can lead to collateral consequences for persons who hold professional license or who are not citizens of the Untied States (professional licensing is subject to revocation and non US citizens may be deported or denied reentry into the United States).

Note: Grand theft auto is not a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Law.

Additional Punishments for a conviction of vehicle theft include: denial of entry into the armed serves, loss of the right to own a firearm (felony convictions), fines and court fees, civil lawsuits, restitution, criminal protective orders, and more.

Defense to GTA

Common defenses to a criminal charge of PC 487(d)(1) include statue of limitations (3 years), mistake of fact (reasonably believed the true owner of the vehicle gave consent to the defendant to posses the defendant), intoxication, insanity, jury nullification, emergency, necessity, and more.

If you or a loved one is charged with vehicle theft under PC 487(d)(1), contact our criminal defense lawyers today. Our attorneys are available seven days a week to answer all of your criminal law questions and discuss your defense options. Call today!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Grand Theft Auto

Code: PC 487(d)(1) (CalCrim No. 1820)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 487(d)(1) is a wobbler crime. This means that the crime may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Incarceration:Felony PC 487(d)(1) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation may be available in both felony and misdemeanor PC 487(d)(1) cases (assuming that other crimes or enhancements that might bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 32 is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

Strike: PC 487(d)(1) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 487(d)(1) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: Felony PC 487(d)(1) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm. 

Bail: $50,000 (San Bernardino County)

Grand Theft Auto PC 487(d)(1) Criminal defense lawyer attorney sentence punishment penalty jail prison misdemeanor felony Redlands Yucaipa san Bernardino rialto colton fontana rancho Cucamonga Ontario Victorville highland Hesperia loma linda se habla espanol Spanish abogado hs California ca crime penal code

Related Crimes

  • PC 499(a) Joyriding with a prior auto theft conviction

  • PC 499(b) Joyriding with two prior auto theft convictions

  • PC 496(d) Purchase or receive stolen vehicle

Criminal Defense Lawyers


Ontario, Fontana, Loma Linda, Redlands, Colton, Chino, Rancho Cucamonga, Yucaipa, Rialto, Hesperia, San Bernardino, Upland, Victorville, Highland

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