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Carjacking Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

Most people have heard of “carjacking,” but many are unaware of the specific elements of the offense. Carjacking in California is defined in PC 215. While the concept of carjacking is well-known, there are specific requirements under California law for a carjacking charge. Chris Bou Saeed is an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. With over 15 years of experience, Chris has gained the knowledge and expertise to provide you with superior legal representation if you have been accused of carjacking or any other criminal offense.

What is Carjacking?

Section 215 of the California Penal Code defines the crime of carjacking. Typically, it involves the forcible theft of the vehicle of another, in the presence of the person possessing that vehicle, by means of threats or violence. While this is a rough outline of the offense, the statute is very specific about the requirements for a carjacking charge, including:

  • The wrongful taking of a vehicle.
  • In the possession of someone else.
  • While the possessor or a passenger is present.
  • Against the possessor’s (or passenger’s) will.
  • Intending to deprive such person of possession of the vehicle, either permanently or temporarily.
  • Using force or fear.

Each of those elements, including intent, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. They also distinguish carjacking from robbery.

Carjacking vs. Robbery

If you consider the two offenses, robbery, which is the forcible taking of the property against the possessor’s will, sounds a lot like carjacking, where the “property” is a means of transportation. In fact, in the California Penal Code, carjacking is a subheading under “Robbery.” Carjacking is actually a form of robbery, where the property involved is a motor vehicle. The definitions of the two are almost identical, in that they both include the taking of property from someone in that person’s immediate presence, using force or fear. In fact, the two are so similar that carjacking and robbery may both be charged for the same conduct, although the statute prohibits punishing a person for both.

The most significant difference between carjacking and robbery is that the sentence for carjacking is similar in length to the sentence for robbery. Although both are always felonies, the potential sentence includes a minimum of three years for carjacking, and two years for simple robbery (robbery of the second degree). The bottom line, though, is that the two are almost identical, and carjacking is simply robbery containing specific conduct involving a motor vehicle. Finally, both are “strikes” under California’s three strikes law.

We should also note that hijacking is also a crime under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 2119. Note that the federal law, while similar to the California statute, is not identical to it. The federal carjacking statute requires intent to cause bodily injury or death, and must involve a motor vehicle that has been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce. Interestingly, the federal version of the law, if applicable, contains harsh penalties, including up to 15 years in prison for simple carjacking.

Penalties for Carjacking

Carjacking penalties are severe. Like robbery, carjacking is always a felony charge. The punishment for carjacking, without more, is imprisonment for 3, 5, or 9 years. However, the penalty will increase if a victim is injured, if the carjacking involved the use of a firearm, or if the carjacking was committed as part of a gang activity. And if the carjacking included kidnapping, the penalty is life in prison. Obviously, a carjacking charge must be taken seriously, and you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your interests.

Defending Carjacking Charges in Los Angeles

Carjacking is a serious felony. If you have been charged with carjacking, you need an experienced attorney who has spent years defending serious criminal charges. One of the most important aspects is finding and developing defenses that apply to your carjacking charge. These include (a) whether the prosecution can prove that you used force or fear, and (b) whether the owner consented to your taking the vehicle. Note that even if the prosecution cannot prove that you used force or fear, this may still leave the question of whether you committed a different offense, grand theft auto.

Facing a carjacking charge is difficult, but with the right attorney, you will receive the benefit of someone who will do what it takes to develop any defenses, and to counter the allegations against you. Call Chris Bou Saeed at CBS Law to discuss your case. Your initial consultation is free. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005.

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