Carjacking and grand theft auto both involve taking possession of a vehicle from its true owner. That’s why it’s easy to confuse these two crimes. However, these criminal acts are actually very different. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between carjacking and grand theft auto.
What is Carjacking? (PC 215)
Under California Penal Code Section 215, you commit the felony crime of carjacking when you use force or fear to take a motor vehicle from the possession of another person against his or her will in that person’s immediate presence.
To be convicted of carjacking, the prosecution must prove all of the following:
- A person possessed a car
- You took the car from the owner’s immediate presence
- You took the car against the owner’s will using force or fear, and
- You took the car with the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle either permanently or temporarily
In simpler terms, the crime of carjacking is when you steal a vehicle from someone while the person is present. The person could be in the driver’s seat, a passenger, or anywhere as long as the vehicle is sufficiently within the person’s control.
If you are convicted of carjacking under PC 215, you face 3, 5 or 9 years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000. You will also receive a strike on your record under California’s Three Strikes Law. If you have a strike on your record, the penalties you face for committing a second strike crime double. If you have at least two prior strikes on your record, you face 25 years to life in prison for a third strike conviction.
What is Grand Theft Auto? (PC 487)
The crime of grand theft auto is a separate offense from carjacking. Under California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1), grand theft auto is when you take a vehicle owned by another person.
The difference between grand theft auto and carjacking is that carjacking requires the vehicle be in the “immediate presence” of the owner. Carjacking is also considered a more serious crime because it requires that you used force or fear to commit the criminal act. Grand theft auto occurs when you steal a car when the owner of the vehicle is not near the car, such as a car in a parking lot or parked on the street.
Grand theft auto is a wobbler offense in California, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances of the case and your criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 364 days in jail. If you are convicted of felony grand theft auto, you face 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been accused of vehicle-related theft, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients against facing serious criminal charges such as carjacking and grand theft auto. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.