Can I be charged withGrand Theft Autoifthe vehicle in question was in my possession because it was collateral for an unpaid debt?

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Can I be charged withGrand Theft Autoifthe vehicle in question was in my possession because it was collateral for an unpaid debt?

I allowed $3500 to be borrowed from me and in exchange I would store a vehicle as collateral until the loan was paid back in full. Four months went by with no contact from the registered owneruntil I was in an accident and CHP arrested me for GTA. What got me from being detained further was a promissory note that was signed and dated by the owner, myself and a witness.

Asked on September 3, 2010 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The answer depends on both the actual facts and how they are reported. If there was an agreement that you could hold a vehicle as collateral, then it would not be theft to *hold* it--though depending on the agreement, you might *not* have had the right to use the vehicle. Typically, holding it as collateral means "holding it," not driving it; so by driving it, you may have been in violation of your rights over the vehicle, so you may have technically committed theft, though if you can show a good faith belief that you had the right to do what you did, that is in your favor. Again, it depends on what the agreement was.

Also, as noted, alot depends on what people will report or testify to. If you don't have a signed agreement, for example, and the other party does not support your version, then it becomes "he said, she said," with you each reporting a different state of facts.

You should consult with a criminal defense attorney to see what your potential criminal liability and you best defense(s) are.

Good luck.


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