In 2015, more than 180,000 vehicles were stolen in California with a combined replacement value of approximately $1 billion. Approximately 21.8 percent of all vehicle thefts in the state of California occur in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which includes Alameda County, Marin County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara County.
Of the thefts in the San Francisco Bay Area, one-third occurred in Alameda County. The San Francisco Police Department was one of the top 10 law enforcement agencies reporting the incidence of vehicle thefts.
Charges for taking or tampering with a motor vehicle can include charges under the California Vehicle Code (CVC) §§ 10851(a) or (b)1820 for the following offenses:
- Tampering with a Vehicle under Vehicle Code § 10852
- Unlawful Taking of Bicycle or Vessel under Penal Code § 499(b)
- Unlawfully taking a Bicycle or Vessel in violation of Penal Code § 499(b)
If you were charged with vehicle tampering, vehicle taking, or the unlawful taking of a bicycle or vessel in San Francisco, CA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers. We represent clients on a wide range of theft cases throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Call 1 (866) 842-5384 today to discuss the details of your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers.
Vehicle Tampering in San Francisco, CA
Under Vehicle Code Section 10852, the charge of damaging or tampering with a vehicle in violation of Vehicle Code § 10852 requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the following elements:
- The defendant willfully damaged or tampered with someone else’s vehicle or the contents of that vehicle, or
- The defendant willfully broke or removed part of someone else’s vehicle, and
- The defendant did not have the owner’s consent to do that act
The statutory scheme defines the term “vehicle” as a “device by which people or things may be moved on a road or highway.” A vehicle does not include a device that is moved only by human power or used only on stationary rails or tracks.
Vehicle Taking in San Francisco, CA
Under Penal Code §§ 10851(a) and (b), the crime of Unlawful Taking or Tampering with a Vehicle (often called “vehicle theft” or “auto theft”) requires proof of the following elements:
- The defendant took or drove someone else’s vehicle without the owner’s consent, and
- When the defendant did so, he or she intended to deprive the owner of possession or ownership of the vehicle for any period of time
Just because the owner had previously consenting to taking or driving the vehicle on a prior date does not necessarily require a finding that the owner consented to the driving or taking on a later date.
The term “vehicle” can include a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, motor scooter, bus, school bus, commercial vehicle, truck tractor, trailer, semitrailer or another similar type of vehicle.
Unlawful Taking of Bicycle or Vessel in San Francisco
After a charge of unlawfully taking a bicycle or vessel in violation of Penal Code § 499(b) is filed, the following elements must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt:
- The defendant took someone else’s bicycle or vessel without the owner’s consent, and
- When the defendant acted, he or she intended to use or operate the bicycle or vessel for any period of time
In California, the definition of “vessel” includes ships of all kinds, steamboats, steamships, canal boats, barges, sailing vessels, and any structure intended to transport people or merchandise over water. The standard jury instructions for taking or tampering with a vehicle can be found in Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction 1822.
Related offenses include receiving stolen property, although a defendant cannot be convicted of both unlawfully taking a bicycle or vessel and receiving the same item as stolen property where there is evidence of only one act or transaction. Likewise, a defendant cannot be convicted of both an unlawful taking and theft of the same item in the absence of evidence showing a substantial break between the theft and the use of the property.
Before 1997, Section 499(b) also applied to the taking of vehicles. At that time, the California Legislature determined that the previous statute was the same as Vehicle Code § 10851 and, therefore, restricted the scope of the statute to only bicycles and, later, vessels.
Sentencing Factor: Ambulance, Police Vehicle, Fire Department Vehicle
If the defendant unlawfully took or drove a vehicle, then the penalties can be enhanced if it is also proved that the defendant took or drove an emergency vehicle on call. To prove this allegation, the additional elements that must be proved at trial include:
- The vehicle was an ambulance, a distinctively marked law enforcement vehicle, or a distinctively marked fire department vehicle
- The vehicle was on an emergency call when it was taken, and
- The defendant knew that the vehicle was on an emergency call
Sentencing Factor: Modified for Disabled Person
If the defendant unlawfully took or drove a vehicle, then the penalties can be enhanced if it is also proved that the defendant took or drove a vehicle modified for a disabled person. To prove this allegation, the additional elements that must be proved at trial include:
- The vehicle was modified for the use of a disabled person
- The vehicle displayed a distinguishing license plate or placard issued to disabled persons, and
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the vehicle was so modified and displayed the distinguishing plate or placard
The standard jury instructions for Unlawful Taking of a Bicycle or Vessel under Penal Code § 499(b) can be found at Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction 1820.
If you were arrested for taking or driving a vehicle that was an emergency vehicle or was modified for a disabled person, the contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers.
In most cases the defendant cannot be convicted of both stealing the vehicle and receiving a stolen vehicle if there was only one act or transaction. Likewise, a defendant cannot be convicted of grand theft of a vehicle and unlawfully taking the vehicle in the absence of any evidence showing a substantial break between the taking and the use of the vehicle.
A spouse who takes a community property vehicle with the intent to temporarily, not permanently, deprive the other spouse of its use is not guilty of violating Vehicle Code § 10851.
Vehicle Theft in California — Visit the website of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to learn more about the California Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Act. The Act provides funding for the public awareness program, “Californians Help Eliminate Auto Theft” (CAL-HEAT), which establishes a toll-free hotline number for reporting vehicle theft in which thefts are referred to the appropriate local law enforcement agency, including the San Francisco Police Department. Find information on the Vehicle Theft Information System (VTIS), which reports data on a statewide, county, or region basis. CHP’s Investigative Services Section can immediately access statistical information to assist investigators throughout California in identifying vehicles that had their identification numbers altered or removed.
Finding an Attorney Vehicle Theft in San Francisco, CA
If you were arrested for a vehicle theft charge in San Francisco, CA, including taking or tampering with a motor vehicle, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers to discuss your case.
Our offices are located on Geary Boulevard near Park Presidio in San Francisco, CA. We serve clients throughout the City of San Francisco and the surrounding areas, including Alameda County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Contra Costa County, CA.
Before you talk with a law enforcement officer, call Ticket Crushers to discuss your case. Call 1 (866) 842-5384 today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.