Although we are all spending most of our time at home to avoid the spread of COVID-19, our vehicles have become the subject of crime recently. In California and throughout other states, there has been an increase in auto theft since many people no longer have to rely on their vehicles to commute to work or school. Plus, they don’t realize their vehicles have been taken for a long time because of it.
The Los Angeles Police Department reported a 23 percent decrease in crime in nearly every category back in March 2020 compared to the same month last year, except for auto theft. In several communities in the Bay Area, there have been reports from property taken from unlocked vehicles.
In Ventura, city law enforcement officials saw an increase in car thefts. According to KEYT-TV, Ventura Police reported a 200-percent rise in stolen vehicles from March 15, 2020, to March 30.
Similar to incidents in the Bay Area, the targeted cars were unlocked with the keys still inside. These thefts often occurred at night between 7 PM and 3 AM.
There are two main types of auto theft in California: auto burglary and grand theft auto. Auto burglary means entering a locked car or its trunk to either steal the vehicle, steal property inside the vehicle, or commit a felony inside the car, while grand theft auto is taking another person’s vehicle without the owner’s permission and keeping it permanently or for a long period.
Auto burglary is considered a second-degree burglary offense, which means it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year, while a felony conviction carries a maximum prison term of three years. However, burglary in an inhabited RV or any other trailer coach is a felony that can lead to a prison sentence of up to six years.
While grand theft auto can also be either a misdemeanor or a felony, it is generally charged as a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. Whether the stolen vehicle was locked at the time of the alleged incident will determine whether a suspect faces auto burglary or grand theft auto charges.
Unfortunately, false accusations do occur. Since most residents are home, they become more watchful of neighborhood activity. Sometimes, they are quick to report allegedly suspicious behavior despite the fact no crime has occurred.
If you have been accused of auto theft in Ventura County, the Law Offices of Scott Bentley can protect your rights and freedom. Since the coronavirus outbreak has affected the jail and prison system, an “Emergency Bail Schedule” has been issued to offer $0 bail for most misdemeanors and felonies. On top of delays in the court system, this gives you enough time to hire our experienced criminal defense attorney and let our firm prepare your case.
Contact us today at (805) 210-8555 and request a free case evaluation. Hablamos español.