Lets go crazy
The real world is monotonous and soul-sucking, but in games we can be knights, sorcerers, spies, assassins, and even criminals. Case in point: Grand Theft Auto. Over the last decade and a half the GTA series has become one of the most famous/infamous franchises around, and for good reason. What better escape is there than blowing up entire city blocks, running rampage in sports cars, and wantonly murdering anyone and everyone who looks at you funny?
These aren't healthy urges, but at least we can play them out in the safety of Rockstar's virtual worlds. And it seems Grand Theft Auto V will let us do so with more freedom than ever. But what happens when these urges don't stay confined to the game world? Unsurprisingly, it turns out the everyday shenanigans of GTA gameplay can get you a lifetime in prison in the real world (or, in this case, in California--San Andreas' real-life analog) Here's how.
Max sentence: 3 years
Max fine: $10,000 (Source)
The eponymous crime of the Grand Theft Auto series can carry a hefty sentence in California, the setting of GTA V. It's a wobbler, which means depending on the circumstances of the case you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the punishment can vary widely. There's also a difference between simple car theft and actual "grand theft auto," but suffice to say you're going to serve some time if you steal a parked car in real life simply because you don't feel like waiting for a cab. And unlike in GTA, a quick paint job probably won't get you off the hook.
Soliciting a prostitute
Max sentence: 6 months
Max fine: $1,000 (Source)
Dont be ashamed, because we've all done it--in a Grand Theft Auto game, that is. Picking up a Lady of the Night is an easy way to gain back some health, and it's usually good for a laugh. But calling on a call girl in real life isn't quite as harmless in California/San Andreas. It's just a misdemeanor, but offenders face up to $1,000 in fines, six months in county, or both. And that's just first time offenders--second- and third-timers are guaranteed a minimum of 45 and 90 days, respectively. Oh, and if you're caught in a car or near a residence? Have fun taking the bus for a while, because your driver's license can be restricted or suspended as well.
Possession of a rocket launcher
A rocket launcher is a weapon of horrendous destruction, although it's hardly the biggest or baddest firearm you can obtain in GTA. That doesn't matter in the real world, where simple possession of an RPG--without ever firing an actual rocket, or even going so far as actually harming someone or destroying any property--can cost you a decade of your life and $10K in fines. In federal terms, a rocket launcher is classified with grenades, mortars, machine guns, short or sawed-off shotguns and rifles, anything with a silencer, and home-made guns as a "Title II weapon" or "NFA firearm." And that's a big no-no.
Max sentence: 1 year
Max fine: $1,000 (Source)
Cops in GTA games start shooting at you before they cuff you, so players without a death wish will be forced to resist arrest just to survive. In the real world, generally the fuzz will try to get you to surrender before pulling their pieces out, and refusing to comply is a big deal. In addition, the crime classified as "resisting arrest" in California also includes any act that delays or obstructs a police officer or emergency technician from performing his or her duties, including but not limited to arresting someone. So next time you see a paramedic attempting to resuscitate someone, don't try to get them to pose for a picture with you, unless you're keen to find out what a year behind bars is like.
Running a red light
Max sentence: None, thankfully
Max fine: $480 (Source)
Running a red light can be incredibly dangerous, but luckily for most offenders there's no jail time attached to the simple act of mistaking red for green. It's a different story if you're drunk or you actually hurt someone, of course. Then again, California apparently has the highest red light penalties in the whole country, not to mention the hatefed intersection cameras that automatically issue more tickets than any ten cops could handle. It's estimated those cameras generate $80 million for the state and $50 million for cities and counties every single year. No wonder they won't get rid of them.
Max sentence: 90 days
Max fine: $1,000 (Source)
It's actually more challenging to follow the laws of the road when you're driving around in Grand Theft Auto than to simply do whatever you want--can you imagine how long every mission would take if you stopped at every stop sign in the game? But getting caught driving on the wrong side of the road or being otherwise reckless in real life can become a serious inconvenience. In California, a reckless driver is defined as "a person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." That basically covers everything and anything you can do in a car in GTA, meaning if you drive in real life like you do in the game you'll face jail time and fines--and that's if you don't hit anyone.
Street racing is practically a harmless lark compared to all the other awful things most Grand Theft Auto players get up to, but in real life the consequences can be pretty extreme--especially if you're at all attached to your car. Spending three months in jail is nothing to sneeze at, and offenders will pay through the nose to get their vehicles back--if they're not crushed and turned into scrap metal, that is. That's right: as part of a crackdown on illegal street racing California started crushing racers' souped-up vehicles before their very eyes back in 2007. Talk about cruel and unusual.
If you do hit someone while you're driving like a maniac, and if, goodness forbid, you kill them, you're basically screwed in real world terms. For misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter you're likely to get a year behind bars, and there are tons of caveats that can bump that up to more serious offenses with more severe punishments. Flee the scene? Add five years. Under the influence? Have another four to six years on top of that. How about a life sentence if the court decides to upgrade you to second degree murder? The fine can increase to up to $10,000 as well if you're bumped from a misdemeanor to a felony. As fun as it is to drive down the sidewalk like you're bowling for pedestrians in the games, we don't recommend it in real life.
Every time you point a gun at a store clerk or random passerby in Grand Theft Auto, you're committing armed robbery. In the game that earns you a single star (if a cop is around, anyway). Granted, a single star is enough for the boys in blue to start shooting, but still--compared to the entire national guard coming after you at higher wanted levels, thats pretty inconsequential. Not so IRL; you're looking at two to six years in state prison for your run-of-the-mill robbery, while having a gun on you during the act can earn you an extra 25, depending on whether it was discharged and if anyone was actually injured.
First degree murder
The California penal code defines first degree murder as "willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing," or any killing that occurs during during the commission of another crime, such as arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, or train wrecking. Basically, the kind of stunts you pull for fun without a second thought in GTA is guaranteed to be first degree murder in the real world. This one's a biggie: offenders face 25 years to life, or life without the possibility of parole (yikes!) if the murder is deemed a hate crime or, weirdly, if the person you murdered was operating a public transportation vehicle like a bus or train. It gets worse if you use a gun or are associated with a gang, and other circumstances can even upgrade you to the death penalty, at which point the crime is classified as capital murder. Basically: don't kill anyone.
What did we learn?
Committing wanton acts of violence and depravity in Grand Theft Auto is literally all fun and games, but you should leave those crimes in the game where they belong. Considering we're all about to be too busy playing GTA V to feed ourselves, much less to go outside and actually commit a crime, that probably won't be an issue in the near future.