Posted by Gurjit Srai In Theft July 4, 2024 0 Comment

Carjacking is considered a serious crime under California law that accompanies serious legal consequences. California Penal Code Section 215(a) defines carjacking as any unlawful taking of a motor vehicle from another person, passenger or driver, by means of force or fear. Carjacking is considered a felony under the law.

Elements of Carjacking (Penal Code Section 215(a))

To be convicted of carjacking under California Penal Code Section 215(a), the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Taking a Motor Vehicle: The defendant took a motor vehicle that was not their own.
  2. Possession by Another: The vehicle was in the possession of another person.
  3. From the Person or Immediate Presence: The vehicle was taken from the person or immediate presence of the possessor or passenger.
  4. Intent to Permanently or Temporarily Deprive: The defendant intended to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person of possession of the vehicle.
  5. Use of Force or Fear: The taking was accomplished by means of force or fear. This includes threats, physical violence, or any actions that would reasonably cause fear in the victim.

The law defines a motor vehicle as any vehicle that is self-propelled, including cars, truck, motorcycles, etc.

Penalties for Carjacking

Carjacking is a felony in California and is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment: Three, five, or nine years in state prison.
  • Fines: Up to $10,000.
  • Probation: In some cases, probation may be granted, but it is less common due to the severity of the crime.

Aggravating Factors

Certain circumstances can increase the penalties for carjacking:

  • Use of a Firearm or Deadly Weapon: Enhancements under California Penal Code Sections 12022 or 12022.5 can add additional years to the sentence.
  • Infliction of Great Bodily Injury: Enhancements under California Penal Code Section 12022.7 can add three to six years to the sentence.
  • Gang-Related Activity: If the carjacking was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang, penalties can be enhanced under California Penal Code Section 186.22.

Defenses to Carjacking

Several defenses can be raised against a carjacking charge, including:

  • Lack of Force or Fear: If the prosecution cannot prove that force or fear was used, the charge may not hold.
  • Consent: If the vehicle’s owner consented to the defendant taking the car, it is not carjacking.
  • Mistaken Identity: The defendant may argue they were wrongly identified as the perpetrator.
  • False Accusation: The defendant may claim that the accusation was fabricated.

Call an Experienced Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been arrested or is facing a criminal investigation for carjacking, you should immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you learn about your legal rights and options.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with criminal defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call (209) 323-5558 or complete our online form.