Carjacking is a Violent Crime involving the theft of an automobile and contains elements of both Violent Crime and Theft Crimes. It is considered a very serious crime and is included in California's "Three Strikes" law, which doubles penalties for any future conviction. Carjacking is a type of Robbery involving the theft of an automobile or other vehicle by means of force or threat or both. California Penal Code Section 215 describes Carjacking as the "felonious taking of a motor vehicle... with the intent to permanently or temporary deprive... by means of force or fear". The California law covers a broad interpretation as to what constitutes Carjacking. The taking of the vehicle can be only temporary, and does not need to be from the owner of the vehicle; the taking can even be from a passenger.
An important element of Carjacking is that the victim in a Carjacking actually suffer bodily injury or in the commission of the Carjacking was threatened with bodily injury or to the victim's family.
In addition to being a "strike", a Carjacking conviction can carry penalties including up to three, six or nine years of state prison for a first offense. Additional allegations can seriously enhance the potential sentence. For example, if a child or other passenger remains in the vehicle after it is taken, a Kidnapping allegation can be added, carrying a life sentence! If the vehicle is taken across state lines, an additional ten years may be added to the sentence in addition to the possibility of federal charges. In the most extreme situation, if a victim were killed in the commission of a Carjacking, Murder charges would be filed carrying the possibility of the death penalty. No matter how serious the circumstances, clearly the penalties for Carjacking are extremely harsh.
As with any crime, if an individual has been accused of carjacking, it is important to retain the services of a Southern California Defense Attorney. It is essential that a thorough investigation is conducted and any witnesses interviewed. Often witness accounts will further explain or even differ from law enforcement versions of the incident. Often after an arrest law enforcement will continue their investigation, as they may not have sufficient evidence for the case to be prosecuted. It is important that anyone arrested or accused of a crime exercise their constitutional right to remain silent: there is no requirement that anyone speak with law enforcement and it is strongly discouraged in most cases. Let your attorney be the intermediary between you and any law enforcement, prosecutor or governmental authority.
As with most criminal cases, the defense process also involves significant negotiations with prosecutors. Naturally the goal of an experienced defense attorney is to avoid a conviction altogether or at minimum negotiate to a lesser charge or reduced penalties.
Our office represents individuals accused of Carjacking in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney David Welch is available to assist anyone accused of Carjacking or any other criminal offense.