California Penal Code Section 215 PC: Carjacking

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimecarjacking

While the crime of robbery under California Penal Code Section 211 PC, makes it illegal to take another's property by force or fear, if the property in question is a car the defendant can be charged with carjacking pursuant to California Penal Code Section 215 PC.

To be convicted of carjacking, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant took a motor vehicle that did not belong to him or her.
  2. The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of a person who possessed the vehicle or was its passenger.
  3. The vehicle was taken against that person's will.
  4. The defendant used force or fear to take the vehicle or to prevent the other person from resisting.
  5. AND when the defendant used force or fear to take the property, he or she intended to deprive the other person of possession of the vehicle either temporarily or permanently.

While force or fear must be used against the victim to gain possession of the vehicle, the timing of the use of force or fear can be before, during or after the defendant takes possession of the vehicle.

A person takes something if he or she acquires possession of it and moves it a slight distance. In a carjacking, the taking can occur whether or not the victim remains with the car. Carjacking can also occur when a defendant forcibly takes a victim's car keys, not just when a defendant takes a car from the victim's immediate presence.

2. Examples

A man watches a couple park an expensive automobile at a mall parking lot. He follows the couple into the mall and then approaches them. While brandishing a knife, the man demands the car keys, which the couple turns over to him. This man could be charged with carjacking in violation of California Penal Code Section 215 PC even though the car was not in the couple's immediate presence.

Unlike robbery offenses, there is no claim of right defense to carjacking. For example, a man's car is stolen and he reports the theft to the police. Later that day, he sees his car idling in front of a fast food restaurant with no one in the driver's seat and a passenger in the rear. The man gets in his vehicle, orders the passenger to get out by threatening violence and drives away. Even though he owns the car, the man could technically be charged with carjacking because California treats carjacking as a crime against possession, not ownership.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Grand Theft Auto - California Penal Code Section 487(a) PC
  2. Robbery - California Penal Code Section 211 PC
  3. Kidnapping during a Carjacking - California Penal Code Section 209.5 PC
4. Defenses to Carjacking

If there was no threat of force or fear, a defendant would not be criminally liable for carjacking, although they could be prosecuted for grand theft auto. Additionally, if there was consent to take the car, the defendant could not be prosecuted for carjacking, even if the consent is eventually withdrawn. Again, someone could still be prosecuted for grand theft auto in this situation.

5. Penalties

Carjacking is a felony-level offense that is punishable by up to nine years in prison. A defendant can be punished for each defendant present in the car when the carjacking occurred. If a carjacking victim suffers great bodily harm, the defendant can be sentenced to an additional six years in prison. A defendant can be sentenced to ten years in prison if a gun is used in the carjacking, twenty years if a gun is fired, and life if the guns kills someone.

6. Criminal Defense for Carjacking Cases

If you or a loved one have been charged with carjacking, it is crucial that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Carjacking is a serious felony offense that can carry extensive prison sentences. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who previously handled major felonies for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Mr. Kraut is highly experienced at representing clients charged with offenses of this nature and works tirelessly to ensure his clients have the best defense possible.

For more information about carjacking charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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