Articles Posted in Car Theft

While many people are aware of the protection afforded under the right against double jeopardy it is not always clear when double jeopardy applies and defendants are often convicted of more than one crime arising out of the same alleged act, in violation of double jeopardy. Recently, a Florida appellate court overturned a defendant’s conviction for grand theft auto, finding that it was precluded under double jeopardy due to his carjacking conviction. If you live in Tampa and are charged with grand theft or any other theft crime, it is important to protect your rights by retaining an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who will present a tenacious defense on your behalf.

The Alleged Carjacking and Grand Theft Auto

Allegedly, in August of 2015, a man went up to a woman approaching her car and pointed a gun at her, telling her if she screamed, he would shoot her. The man took the woman’s phone and purse and then used her keys to steal her car. The woman reported the car as stolen, and the police spotted the car with a license plate reader. The police pursued the car with lights and sirens activated, but the vehicle did not stop until it crashed. The defendant exited the vehicle after the crash and fled on foot. After a pursuit he was detained and arrested.

One of the most important things that anyone charged with a Florida theft crime should know is that the burden is at all times on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. That means they have to prove more than just a hunch, and they have to do more than show that you probably committed the crime. As the state’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained, that means in auto theft cases that prosecutors have to show that the car in which the person charged was caught is the car that was stolen.One afternoon in May 2016, a man drove a silver Dodge Dart to his aunt’s house in Tampa. He came to retrieve some paperwork from his cousin. He left keys in the car – a rental – along with his cell phone, his wallet, and a bag of clothes. He also left the car windows down. The car was gone when he returned a few minutes later. He contacted police but wasn’t able to remember the vehicle’s license plate number.

The following night, a Tampa police officer observed a silver Dodge Dart roll through a stop sign, make a quick lane change, and make several quick turns before running another couple of stop signs. The three people inside the car – two men and one woman – jumped out and started running away when the officer approached. The officer eventually apprehended the woman, identified in court documents as “VG.” She was arrested and charged with grand theft auto and burglary, among other charges.

VG appealed the conviction, arguing that prosecutors never proved that the car from which she fled was the same vehicle that was stolen from the man. She said she didn’t know who owned the car and simply fled because the man behind the wheel said “we gotta jump out.” VG’s lawyer also pointed out that the prosecutors did not match the car’s license plate or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with the rental car. The Second District agreed.