Have you Been Charged with Entering Auto in Georgia?
If you or a loved one has been charged with entering auto, contact Lawson and Berry or one of his Georgia Entering Auto Attorneys that are highly knowledgeable in this field. Don't wait to call; it could cost you your case.
Entering auto is the breaking and entering into a vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony. Entering auto is a similar offense to burglary, which is the breaking and entering into a dwelling or structure with the intent to commit a felony therein. Georgia grades this crime relatively harshly in hopes of discouraging people from engaging in this activity. Entering auto poses a risk to public safety and peaceful society.
Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-8-18 reads as follows:
If any person shall enter any automobile or other motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or a felony, he shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the trial judge, as for a misdemeanor.
In 1993, the Court found a suspect guilty of the crime of entering auto. Police officers noticed the door of a 1976 Oldsmobile was open, and a man's legs were sticking out of the vehicle. When officers looked in the car, they saw the suspect lying down rummaging through the vehicle. After doing a check on the vehicle, the officers discovered that the car belonged to another police officer and therefore, arrested the suspect. When they conducted a search of the accused and the vehicle, they found a radio antenna, spark plug, and screwdriver among the things and they testified at trial that screwdrivers and spark plugs were commonly used to break into and steal cars. The police officer to whom the car belonged testified that he did not give the defendant permission to enter his car nor did he know the defendant. The Defendant argued that that they had not proven any criminal intent, which was required in finding someone guilty of entering auto. However, the jury found that the Defendant entered the automobile for the purpose and with intent to commit theft. Therefore, Defendant was guilty of the crime of entering auto. Williams v. State, 208 Ga. App. 572, (1993).
Looking at another case example of Entering Auto, a suspect was charged with breaking into a victim's vehicle and stealing his cell phone. The victim drove to school and after school discovered that his cell phone was missing from the duffel bag in his car. The suspect rode the school bus with other students and ranting on about "ganking” some kids phone. “Ganking" was a slang term for stealing. The victim found out that the Defendant had taken his cell phone and commenced the case. The Defendant argued that he found the cell phone instead of stealing it and also that he could have stolen the phone from another individual and did not commit the crime of entering auto. However, the jury found that the Defendant's boasting about taking the cell phone on the bus coupled with the fact that the victim's phone was missing provided ample evidence that the Defendant was not entitled to possess the phone and was guilty of entering auto. In the Interest of M.C.A., 263 Ga. App. 770, (2003).
What Must be Proven
To be found guilty of entering auto, the prosecution must show that you broke in and entered the vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt.
Penalty for an Entering Auto Conviction in Georgia
The penalty for entering auto is a prison sentence for no less than one year and no more than five years and is deemed a felony. However, it is within the judge's discretion to treat the crime as a misdemeanor instead.
If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor instead of a felony, you may only have to pay a fine. But if you judge issues a felony conviction, the consequences may be years in prison. You could receive a prison sentence, a fine, or both if guilty of a felony.
Also, you may be ordered by the court to pay restitution. Restitution is when someone convicted of a crime must financially compensate a victim or the victim's family. The amount of compensation varies with each case and is set by the court. Your penalty for a conviction of entering auto could be a prison sentence, restitution, and a fine if they found it reasonable for your case.
However, having a Georgia Entering Auto Attorney can help you lower your sentence and help you understand alternative options. Sometimes participating in community service programs or taking other affirmative steps prior before a conviction can help you look sympathetic to a jury or a judge.
If you have already been convicted of a felony, then a second conviction will most likely result in a longer prison sentence. As always, being convicted of the same or similar crime twice does not blow over very well with the prosecutor and judge.
Defenses in Georgia
The crime of entering auto shares similarities with theft offenses and defenses for theft can also be applied to entering auto cases.
Joyriding: Joyriding is when you take another person's car for enjoyment. You may intend to return the vehicle after the fact. However, joyriding is not a defense to entering auto because you still took a car without permission. There are some circumstances where joyriding would not be considered an entering auto crime but it could still be considered a theft crime. Georgia treats joyriding as a criminal trespass crime and the penalty if convicted of criminal trespass entails a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. O.C.G.A. §17-10-3.
Lack of Intent: Because entering auto requires specific intent to deprive another individual of his or her property, without having that intent, you cannot be guilty of the crime. Your Georgia Attorney can help establish that you lacked the specific intent to complete entering auto. An example would be if you legitimately thought that the motor vehicle belonged to you or a family member. If your grandmother asked you to get her purse from the car and you mistakenly took a purse out of the wrong car, you would not have the intent to complete the crime of entering auto. However, you could still be guilty of theft.
Consent: If you had consent to enter a motor vehicle, then that would be a defense. Having consent would negate the element of breaking and entering.
Innocence: If you have an alibi or witness testimony, your Georgia Attorney can use this to help fight the theft charge. Also, if you obtained property that had previously been stolen from a car, you would not be guilty of entering auto, but you could still be guilty of another crime such as receiving stolen property.
What Does Not Constitute a Defense
I had consent to keep it after I stole it: Even if you receive consent to possess the vehicle from the owner after you took it, you will still be guilty of theft because it was initially taken with the intention of stealing it. Henderson v. State, 167 Ga. App 808, (1983).
I didn't take anything: Even if you were not able to take anything after breaking into a vehicle, you could still be found guilty of entering auto. Similar to burglary, you do not have to commit the felony to be guilty of the crime. If you had the intent to commit a felony, even if you didn't complete the crime, you will still be convicted of entering auto.
It used to be my car: If your car was repossessed, and you tried to get something out of the car, you could be guilty of entering auto because the car does not belong to you anymore.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our Georgia Entering Auto Lawyers. Formulating a defense on your own can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Our Attorneys are highly knowledgeable and will assist you in formulating the best possible defense for your case. We will walk you through every step of the process, and we are dedicated to being accessible to you- days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on your behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all of your options and advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Don't wait to contact one of our Lawyers. Your future is at stake so don't sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.