Have you been arrested for carjacking in Los Angeles? If so, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as you can. Carjacking is a violent felony similar that carries incredibly harsh penalties. If you’re convicted you could face up to 9 years in a California state prison. Once you’ve completed your sentence you’ll still have to live with a felony on your criminal record, which can make life incredibly difficult. You have the right to defend yourself and The Rodriguez Law Group can help. Contact our Los Angeles carjacking defense lawyers to schedule your free consultation today.
- 1 Carjacking in Los Angeles – Penal Code 215 PC
- 2 Carjacking Penalties
- 3 Carjacking Defenses
- 4 Call Our Los Angeles Carjacking Defense Lawyers
Carjacking in Los Angeles – Penal Code 215 PC
Carjacking, as defined in California Penal Code 215 PC, is the crime of taking another person’s vehicle from their immediate presence through the use of force or fear. It doesn’t matter whether that person is the driver or a passenger, or if the car even really belongs to them. You can be charged with carjacking if you forcibly take a vehicle from another person. Simply put, carjacking is a robbery involving a vehicle.
When you’re accused of a crime in Los Angeles the state has the burden of proving that you are guilty of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to do this, prosecutors must prove each element of the offense. When you are charged with the crime of carjacking, the state must prove:
- You took a motor vehicle that didn’t belong to you;
- The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of its driver or a passenger;
- The vehicle was taken against that person’s will;
- You used force or fear to accomplish the carjacking; and
- You intended to deprive the other person of possession of the vehicle.
It’s important to understand what the state has to show to prove each of these things.
Felonious Taking of Another Person’s Vehicle
You can’t be guilty of carjacking if you take a vehicle that is rightfully yours. Carjacking requires that you take a vehicle that belongs to another person. That person could be the vehicle’s driver or one of the vehicle’s passengers.
What does it mean to “take” a vehicle? In California, it simply means that there is some “slight movement” of the vehicle. You don’t even have to take it out of the victim’s presence.
A key requirement of carjacking is that the vehicle is taken from the immediate presence of another person. In California, a vehicle will be considered to be within a person’s immediate presence if “it is sufficiently within his or her control so that he or she could keep possession of it” had you not used force or fear. In other words, immediate presence simply means that the victim, under normal circumstances, could control, reach, and observe the vehicle.
Against the Victim’s Will
Carjacking requires that you forcibly take a vehicle from another person against their will. You cannot be guilty of carjacking if you had the victim’s consent. Consent means that the victim knowingly, willingly, and voluntarily agrees to something. Consent does not exist if it is obtained through force, fear, coercion, or duress.
Force or Fear
The force or fear element is what separates carjacking from other crimes. Force typically involves a physical act. Fear typically involves making threats of violence and harm against a person or their loved ones. For the purposes of 215 PC, it doesn’t matter whether the “confrontation and use of force or fear occurs before, during, or after” you take possession of the vehicle. The important thing is that you relied on force and fear to accomplish the theft.
If you take a vehicle from the immediate presence of another person without using force or fear you can still be charged with the crime of grand theft auto.
Intent to Deprive
You must have a certain intent when you forcibly take a vehicle from the immediate presence of another person. Specifically, you must intend to deprive the victim of the vehicle’s use and enjoyment. The intended deprivation can be temporary or permanent. So, you can be guilty of carjacking even if you intend to return the vehicle shortly after the incident.
Carjacking is a felony offense in California. There are two possible sentencing schemes. A conviction is punishable by either:
- Formal probation and a maximum of 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail; or
- 3, 5, or 9 years in a California state prison.
You may also be subject to fines of up to $10,000.
Aggravated Carjacking Penalties
Since the crime of carjacking involves the use of force or fear, it is classified as a violent felony. As a result, the penalties for the crime can be more severe when aggravating factors are present.
Great Bodily Injury Enhancement: You can face an additional 3 to 6 years in prison if someone suffers a great bodily injury during the carjacking.
Use of a Weapon: Did you use a gun during the carjacking? If so, the consequences for carjacking can be incredibly harsh under the state’s “use a gun and you’re done” sentencing enhancement. Using a gun can add 10 years, firing a gun can add 20 years, and causing serious injury or death with a gun can add 25-years-to-life to your prison sentence.
Gang Affiliation: California imposes harsh penalties when a crime is committed to for the benefit of a gang. You could face an additional 15 years to life in prison if you commit a carjacking at the direction of a gang.
Strike Offense: Do you have other felony convictions? If so, your sentence may be enhanced under the state’s Three Strikes Law. If this is your second strike, your sentence will be double what is typically appropriate for carjacking. So, you could face up to 18 years in prison. If this is your third strike, you must serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars.
It’s important to assert a strong defense when you are accused of a crime in Los Angeles. Remember, the state has the burden of proving that you are guilty. Prosecutors must have evidence and create a strong case to show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. When you pose strong arguments in your defense, it’s more difficult for the state to be successful.
Defenses that can be argued in a carjacking case include:
- The vehicle belonged to you
- You had the victim’s consent
- You did not use force or fear
- The vehicle was not in the victim’s immediate presence
- There was no felonious taking, or
- You have been falsely accused or mistakenly identified.
The arguments you pose should help to explain, excuse, and/or justify your alleged actions. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will help you secure the best possible result in your criminal case.
Call Our Los Angeles Carjacking Defense Lawyers
Carjacking is a serious felony offense in California. A conviction can land you behind bars for 9 years. You’ll likely face additional time if you used a weapon, caused an injury, or have prior felony convictions. Your future is in your hands. You can fight to protect it by working with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At The Rodriguez Law Group, our lawyers are uniquely qualified to help you with your case. We have experience both prosecuting and defending criminal cases. We use our insight and in-depth understanding of the law to provide you with the best possible representation. Contact our Los Angeles office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.