Auto theft in Florida: Severity and sentencing

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Theft & Property Crimes

Theft is a punishable offense in Florida, with the penalties based on the total value of the items stolen. So, what happens if someone steals a motor vehicle?

Because motor vehicles cost much money, stealing one is a graver offense than regular petty theft. If you face charges, which penalties can you expect?

Auto theft charges explained

There’s no separate criminal charge for auto theft. Instead, Florida law categorizes auto theft under grand theft due to the values of the vehicles involved.

The degree of the criminal charge depends on the stolen vehicle’s worth. If the theft offense involved property damage, the degree is also enhanced:

  • Vehicle valued under $20,000: The theft offense is a third-degree felony.
  • Vehicle valued between $20,000 and $100,000: The theft offense is a second-degree felony.
  • Vehicle valued over $100,000, or theft involved property damage: The theft offense is a first-degree felony.

The higher the degree of the offense, the more severe the penalties on conviction.

The penalties for auto theft

If a court convicts a person of auto theft, these are the penalties they potentially face:

  • Grand theft, third-degree felony: Up to five years of prison and $5,000 in fines.
  • Grand theft, second-degree felony: Up to 15 years of prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • Grand theft, first-degree felony: Up to 30 years of prison and $10,000 in fines.

An offender’s past criminal record may also lead to enhanced penalties.

Auto theft vs. joyriding

Auto theft refers to the act of stealing another person’s vehicle to permanently deprive the other of said automobile. However, joyriding refers to temporarily using someone else’s vehicle without permission and without the intent to take it away permanently. These are two very different offenses on paper, and some U.S. states prosecute these offenses differently.

But Florida considers joyriding the same as auto theft, so anyone caught in the act will face grand theft charges.

Auto theft and joyriding are serious legal matters in Florida, with significant consequences for those convicted. These cases can be complex, and a conviction will lead to steep fines and jail time. A legal professional may be able to help those accused to understand their options and protect their rights in court.


FindLaw Network