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Roanoke Criminal Defense Attorney Defends Those Charged With Grand Theft Auto

Motor vehicle theft that occurs in Virginia is prosecuted under the state’s Grand Larceny and Petit Larceny laws. The laws themselves do not define larceny, but courts typically define it as the unlawful taking of property – in this case, a vehicle – that belongs to someone else. For larceny to apply, the act must have been done with the intent to permanently deprive the owner to the property.

Elements of Grand Theft Auto

To obtain a conviction for grand theft auto in Virginia, the prosecutor must present evidence that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Unlawfully took – was in control of the vehicle by driving it or parking it is his garage, for example
  • A vehicle that belonged to another person – was owned by someone other than the defendant
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle – the intent to never return the property to the rightful owner, which distinguishes the act from borrowing the car without asking, but fully intending to return it later


While stealing a vehicle worth less than $200 is considered petit larceny, when the stolen vehicle’s value exceeds $200, the offense is charged as grand larceny, punishable as a felony in Virginia, which involves imprisonment for a minimum of one year and up to 20 years. However, Virginia law allows judges and juries discretion to punish grand larceny as a misdemeanor, which might apply if the vehicle was worth only slightly more than $200 and the defendant has no previous criminal convictions. A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail, or both. However, although one may receive misdemeanor punishment, if the vehicle has value of more than $200, it is still a felony! Nonetheless, when values are this close, there will usually be a good opportunity to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor! Have you been charged with grand theft auto in Virginia? Roanoke criminal defense Attorney Robert F. Rider focuses his practice exclusively on criminal defense, and has the experience to protect your rights and explain your options. Contact our firm online or call 540-685-0075 to schedule your free initial case evaluation today.