Carjacking Laws – California Penal Code 215

California law defines carjacking as the felonious taking of a motor vehicle, in the possession of another, from his/her person or immediate presence, against his/her will and with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the person of the motor vehicle, accomplished by force or fear.  The law does not require that the accused feloniously take from the driver, rather his/her taking from the immediate presence of the passenger will suffice.  The phrase “felonious taking” refers to the act of illegally taking something, which obviously encompasses the act of a defendant taking a car that he/she does not legally own or have a right to access.

Consulting with an experienced California carjacking defense attorney in the early stages of investigation or upon arrest will allow an accused to effectively defend his/her case.  The team of California carjacking defense lawyers at Wallin & Klarich can help any defendant fight any carjacking charge.

Overview of California Carjacking Laws 

Although generally considered a robbery, carjacking encompasses a broader range of conduct.  For a robbery conviction, the accused must have the intent to deprive the person permanently of his/her property.  Conversely, for a carjacking conviction, the accused may have either an intent to deprive the person permanently or temporarily of his/her property.  For example, a defendant who takes the car of another with the intent to joyride and subsequently returns the vehicle is still exposed to carjacking charges, however he/she cannot face robbery charges.

A defendant convicted of carjacking may face imprisonment in state prison for a term not exceeding nine years.  He/she may face an increased sentence if the incident involved a weapon.  In addition, because carjacking is considered a serious felony, a conviction will constitute a strike under California’s “Three Strikes” legislation.  Consulting with an California carjacking defense lawyer will help to alleviate these potentially harsh punishments.

What the Prosecution Must Prove to Convict You of Carjacking

auto theft - carjacking laws

The prosecution must prove several elements in your case, such as whether the vehicle was taken against the alleged victim’s will.

To prove an accused guilty of carjacking, the prosecution bears a significant evidentiary burden.  The California carjacking lawyers at Wallin & Klarich are well-versed and experienced with the prosecutorial burden in carjacking cases.  Please contact our California carjacking defense attorneys if you have any questions about the elements of the prosecution’s case.

To prove guilt, the prosecutor must show:

  1. The defendant took the motor vehicle, that was not his/her own;
  2. The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of a person who possesses 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 that person from resisting; and
  5. When the defendant used force or fear to take the vehicle, he/she intended to deprive the other person of possession of the vehicle, either temporarily or permanently.

A carjacking charge requires that the defendant has the specific intent to take away, or temporarily deprive the owner of the vehicle, either before or during the time he/she used force or fear to commit the felonious taking.  If the defendant forms the requisite intent after his/her use of force or fear, he/she has a complete defense against carjacking claims.

The prosecutor must show that the vehicle was taken against another’s will.  If the owner or possessor consents to the defendant’s taking of the vehicle, then the prosecutor will be unable to prove this element.  Consent includes any permission, freely or voluntarily given, with an understanding of the nature of his/her actions.

Carjacking Terms – Defined 

The term “take” refers to the moment when a person gains possession of an object/property and moves that object/property some distance, regardless how miniscule that distance might be.

The prosecutor is not required to show that the defendant actually hold or touch the object/property.  Rather, a showing that the defendant has control over or a right to control the object/property, either personally or through another person, will suffice.

The term “fear” includes any fear of injury to the person himself/herself, or injury to the person’s family or property, or immediate injury to someone else present during the incident or his/her property.

The phrase “within the immediate presence” encompasses any situation in which the object/property is sufficiently within the person’s control, such that he/she could keep possession if not prevented by force or fear.

Possible Defenses to Carjacking Charges

defenses to carjacking

A skilled attorney will be able to raise several defenses to the carjacking charges against you.

Although carjacking is a serious charge under California law, an accused may be able to raise viable defenses that could entirely release him/her from criminal liability.  Consulting with a carjacking defense lawyer in the early stages of investigation will help a criminal defendant to determine if he/she may utilize any of the below defenses.  The accused may raise the following defenses, if applicable in his/her case, to potentially avoid penalty or punishment.

Vehicle Not Taken Against Person’s Will

A carjacking charge requires that the accused take the vehicle against another person’s will.  If the vehicle owner or possessor consented to the accused’s use of the vehicle, the accused cannot face carjacking charges.  After consenting, the owner cannot later claim that the accused feloniously took the vehicle against the owner’s will.  Please contact the carjacking defense attorneys of Wallin & Klarich if you believe this defense may apply to your case.

Vehicle Not Taken from Immediate Presence of Person who Possessed the Vehicle

To constitute a carjacking, the accused must take the vehicle from the immediate presence of the person who owned or possessed the vehicle.  If the act occurred outside the immediate presence of the owner or possessor, the incident is not considered a carjacking.  Note that taking from the immediate presence of a passenger will suffice.

Vehicle Owned by Defendant

If the defendant owned the vehicle, he/she cannot be charged with carjacking that vehicle.

Mental State Requirement

A carjacking charge requires that the defendant has the specific intent to take away, or temporarily deprive the owner of the vehicle, either before or during the time he/she used force or fear to commit the felonious taking.  If the defendant forms the requisite intent after his/her use of force or fear, he/she has a complete defense against carjacking claims.

No Use of Force or Fear to Take the Vehicle or Prevent that Person from Resisting

A carjacking charge requires the use of force or fear. Although the accused cannot face a carjacking charge without the use of force or fear, he/she may face other criminal charges.

Sentencing and Punishment for a Carjacking Conviction in California

punishment for carjacking

In California, carjacking is considered a “strike” and can result in three, six or nine years in state prison.

Carjacking is charged as a felony and exposes the defendant to the possibility of imprisonment in state prison for a term of three, five or nine years.  In addition, a conviction constitutes a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” legislation.  Consulting with a carjacking defense lawyer in California at Wallin & Klarich may lead to a reduced sentence.  A skilled carjacking defense lawyer in California will structure and implement your most effective defense, oftentimes leading to a substantially diminished punishment.

Armed with a Firearm during the Carjacking

A defendant armed with a firearm during a carjacking, or an attempted carjacking, will face an additional term of one year in state prison.  The term “firearm” includes any device designed to be used as a weapon, from which a projectile is discharged or expelled through a barrel by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.  If this increased punishment may apply in your case, contact a Wallin & Klarich carjacking defense lawyer in California for more information.

Armed with an Assault Weapon during the Carjacking

A defendant armed with a firearm during a carjacking, or an attempted carjacking, will face an additional term of three years in state prison if the firearm was an assault weapon, machine gun or .50 BMG rifle.

Actually Using a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon during the Carjacking

A defendant who uses a deadly or dangerous weapon during a carjacking, or an attempted carjacking, will face an additional term of one, two or three years in state prison.  The term “deadly weapon” includes any object, instrument or weapon that is inherently deadly or dangerous, or one that is used in such a way that it is capable of causing, and likely to cause, death or great bodily injury.

Frequently Asked Questions on California Carjacking Laws – PC 215

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If you have any questions more specific to your carjacking case, call Wallin & Klarich today

At Wallin & Klarich, we commonly receive questions from those facing carjacking charges. Some of these include:

(1) How far do I have to drive to constitute a “felonious taking”?

The term “felonious taking” does not require significant movement, rather any slight movement will suffice.  A “felonious taking” may occur even though the vehicle remains in the physical presence of the victim.

(2) Can I get probation for carjacking?

The court may grant probation, which normally is for a period of three to five years. The court may also place the defendant on felony probation, which is generally accompanied by a probation officer.  For felony probation, the defendant will report to the probation officer on a regular basis.  In addition, he/she may be required to submit himself/herself to regular drug tests and forfeit his/her “search and seizure” rights during the probationary period.  Forfeiting one’s “search and seizure” rights means that any member of law enforcement who is familiar with the defendant’s probationary status can search the defendant’s person, property or home with a search warrant.

Lastly, the probation officer has the right to arrest the defendant without a warrant if he/she believes that the defendant violated any terms of the probation.  In such a situation, the defendant would wait in jail, without bail, until the judge made a determination whether a violation took place.  If the judge determines a probation violation occurred, the defendant may face a sentence in state prison.

Consulting with an experienced and aggressive carjacking defense attorney in California is the most effective way to structure your strongest defense.  Please contact the carjacking defense lawyers in California at Wallin & Klarich if this question applies to you.

(3) What if I just took the person’s car keys away from them instead of taking the car?

A carjacking charge does not require that the defendant take the vehicle, rather includes the act of taking the victim’s car keys.

(4) Does it matter if the person leaves the car while the carjacking takes place?

A “felonious taking” includes circumstances where the victim does not remain with the vehicle.  Thus, even if the person leaves the car while the carjacking takes place, the defendant may nonetheless be criminally liable.  Please contact the carjacking defense lawyers in California at Wallin & Klarich for further questions about the phrase “felonious taking”.

(5) What is the difference between armed with a firearm and using a deadly weapon?

The phrase “armed with a firearm” means that the defendant, while carjacking, had a gun in his/her possession.  California law does not require that the defendant actually use the firearm during the incident; mere possession is sufficient to invoke increased penalties.  A defendant armed with a firearm during the carjacking may face an additional prison term of one year in state prison.  The phrase “using a deadly weapon” means that the defendant actually used the weapon during the carjacking; mere possession is not sufficient.  A defendant who uses a deadly weapon during the carjacking may face an additional prison term of three years in state prison.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today if You Are Being Charged With Carjacking in California

partners 2015 - carjacking

Contact the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today if you have been charged with carjacking in California

The sentencing and punishment associated with a California Penal Code  215 violation of carjacking are serious.  If you are facing potential carjacking charges, contact the team of experienced and reliable carjacking defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich in California.

Our team of carjacking defense attorneys in California understands the gravity of sentencing decisions and the ways in which the repercussions affect you and your family. We have over 30 years of experience defending those charged with carjacking in California.

With office locations in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Torrance, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 466-5245 or submit our intake form at the top of this page. We will get through this together.

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