Carjacking is a serious felony offense in California. The crime incorporates many aspects apart from stealing the vehicle. When you face conviction for the crime, you will pay hectic fines and remain behind bars for lengthy periods. Several circumstances may result in penalty enhancement, like committing a crime while using a firearm. The offense is attached to other felony crimes like auto burglary and robbery.

So, if the police charge you with a carjacking charge in Pasadena, you want to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Only a well-skilled and experienced attorney can help you fight the charge. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we understand the consequences of the crime you are facing. Our attorneys have deep experience in winning criminal cases. Do not hesitate to contact our aggressive attorneys.

What is the Legal Meaning of Carjacking?

Carjacking involves taking a car from the immediate possession of someone or the immediate presence of the passengers against their will, either temporarily or permanently. The use of fear or force accompanies the crime. If you face a carjacking charge, you want to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you throughout the legal process.

The Elements of Carjacking

For the court to find you guilty of carjacking, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime. So when the prosecutor fails to prove the crime's elements, you will not face conviction. The following are the elements of carjacking:

Immediate Presence

When we mention carjacking, we imagine a person holding a gun or a knife ordering a driver out of their vehicle. The perpetrator enters the vehicle and flees away. Under this circumstance, it is clear the perpetrator had a gun in the immediate presence of the driver.

Therefore immediate presence means the automobile was under the driver's control or observation. Again it means the victim could have maintained their automobile if they were not overcome by force and fear. So, the prosecutor must prove you were under the control of the automobile when the perpetrator committed the crime.

Force or Fear

According to the law, force and fear usually have the same meaning as PC 215. Fear indicates you are afraid the alleged offender will harm you or your loved ones when you fail to obey their demands. Resistance from the victim doesn’t mean force or fear was not used by the offender. Therefore if the offender applied force or fear in the commission of the crime, they must face conviction for the crime. Therefore the prosecutor must show you used to fear that led to the commission of the crime.

Taking a vehicle Against the Will of the Owner

You take an automobile against the owner's will when you assume possession and move it even if it is a short distance. You can also face the charges if you assumed possession of the vehicle and failed to move it. Alternatively, committing the crime against the owner means the victim did not allow you to assume vehicle possession. When someone gives their consent, it means they agree freely and not as a result of force or fear. Consent requires the other person to act freely and have positive cooperation. Therefore, the prosecutor must prove you assumed the automobile's possession against the owner's consent. Otherwise, you will not face conviction for the crime.

Intent to Deprive

Usually, theft crimes require the offender to have the aim of permanently depriving the property. But, carjacking requires the offender to assume possession of the automobile either permanently or temporarily. It doesn’t matter whether you intend to keep or sell the vehicle. Note proving intent is also a challenging process. If the prosecutor fails to prove this element, you will not face conviction.

Penalties and Punishment for Carjacking

Under California laws, the statute considers carjacking a felony offense. The potential punishment for the offense includes jail time and probation for up to 12 months. You can also face state imprisonment for nine years. The criminal court can also inflict fines of up to $10,000. 

The above penalties apply to the defendant in the car during the crime. Various penalty enhancements also apply to certain carjacking offenses. So, you can face sentence enhancement when you commit a crime in certain situations. The following are the available penalty enhancement for carjacking offenses in California:

Causing Great Bodily Injuries While Committing the Offense

You will receive extra penalties when you inflict significant bodily injuries to another person while committing the crime. The great bodily injuries include substantial or extensive physical harm. Under California PC 12022.7 states sentence enhancement is caused by significant bodily injuries while committing a carjacking. This enhancement attracts a maximum jail term of 6 years to your initial sentence. The penalties will

  • Using a Firearm

According to California PC 12022.53, you will remain behind bars for ten years if you use a gun while committing a carjacking. Again when you fire the firearm during the crime, you will remain behind bars for 20 years. Also, when you use a firearm and cause significant bodily injuries while carrying out a carjacking, you will receive an extra 25 years in your sentence. The sentence will be in addition to serving the initial sentence for carjacking.

  • California Street Gang

You receive the sentence enhancement when the prosecutor proves you committed the crime to benefit a street gang. You also face the charge when you commit the crime under the directives of a criminal street gang. The enhancement is outlined under California PC 186.22. according to the statute, you will receive extra 15 years in your sentence. Remember, you will consecutively serve the sentence enhancement penalty to your carjacking conviction.

  • Felony Murder

The enhancement will apply when you accidentally or unintentionally kill the victim during the carjacking. Also, the rule will apply when you accidentally or intentionally kill another person during the commission of the crime. So, you will become guilty of first-degree murder. Remember the rule will apply even when the victim does not die during or immediately after the crime. As long as the crime contributed to their death, you will face conviction. For example, the victim suffers stress and depression after the crime. Under this case, the offender will still face a carjacking charge.

  • Three strikes Law

Violating California PC 215 is considered a felony. So, in addition to the penalties you face for carjacking, you will also receive a three strike. The three strikes in your records will make you ineligible for parole.

  • Immigration Consequences

Carjacking can have adverse immigration effects. So, if you are a non-American, the crime can attract deportation. Therefore when you face a criminal charge, you want to hire an attorney conversant with immigration laws to help you fight the charge.

Probation Program

The criminal court judge may decide to grant you probation after committing carjacking. The probation period will run for a period of up to five years. The judge will impose felony probation. The program comes with conditions and terms which you should fulfill. For example, probation requires you to meet your probation professional regularly. The conditions will also require you to undergo drug testing. The police will be allowed to conduct searches and seizures anytime.

When the probation experts believe you violate the conditions of the probation, the officers can take you to custody without an arrest warrant. You will then remain in jail without posting a bail until the judge determines your case. Once the judge confirms you violated the conditions of the probation, they may decide to cancel your probation and order a jail term. So, during your probation period, you want to consult your attorney anytime you are making a decision that can lead to a violation of the terms of the probation.

The Legal Defenses for Carjacking

As discussed above, the penalties for carjacking are devastating. However, you can work with a well-skilled and experienced attorney to help you fight the charge. Consider an attorney with basic knowledge of carjacking cases. Our Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm attorneys use a combination of defenses to ensure you win your case.

We represent you at the court. We weaken the prosecutor’s evidence by presenting testimonies and arguments to discredit the prosecution's evidence. Our attorneys do everything possible to ensure the court reduces your charge or dismisses the case. The following are the potential defenses your attorney can use to fight the charge:

  • You Had the Victim's Consent

As discussed above, one of the critical elements of the crime is the victim's consent. So, when the vehicle owner allows you to possess the vehicle, you will not face conviction for the crime. After agreeing with the victim to use the vehicle, they cannot later claim you took the car against their will. According to the definition of the crime, you can only face conviction for the crime when you take the automobile against the victim's will.

What happens when another person allows you to use their vehicle but later accuses you of carjacking because you did not return the car within the agreed period? If this is your case, the court will not find you guilty of carjacking because you did not apply force or fear while committing the offense. In addition, you had consent from the victim to take the vehicle. Otherwise, the prosecutor can charge you with a different charge, joyriding.

  • Lack of Intent

The intent is a crucial element of carjacking. You can argue you did not have the intent to deprive the car either permanently or temporarily. Remember, the prosecutor must prove your intent to commit the crime. Proving intent is a challenging process. So, once the prosecutor fails to prove the intent, the court will consider reducing the charge or dropping the case.

  • Police Misconduct

If the police violate your rights in any way, mainly during your arrest, the court may dismiss the evidence the prosecutor is relying on. You do not even need to go to trial. Ensure you discuss the situation of your arrest with your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you gather evidence to show how the police violated your rights during the arrest. 

  • Mistaken Identity

According to recent research, many people face convictions due to mistaken identity. After the carjacking accusation, the victim might feel stressed and confused. So, when told to identify the offender, they might identify the wrong person. In many cases, carjacking happens fast, leaving the victims with limited chances to identify the offenders. Many cases of misidentification and accusations can revolve around the case. The law enforcement officers can end up arresting you because your physical appearance meets the perpetrator, yet you are innocent. Do not give up when the police arrest you over wrong accusations.

Your criminal defense attorney can question the prosecutor on how the police identified the perpetrator. Your attorney can also seek evidence from the eyewitness. The experts you employ can help determine why the prosecutor's evidence is unreliable. By doing so, the court will have no option other than dropping or reducing your case.

  • You Did Not Use Force or Fear to Commit the Crime

Fear and force are essential elements to prove in a carjacking case. Therefore, you can argue you did not apply force or fear to commit the crime. You may also argue you saw an empty vehicle at the petrol station with the keys still on. Since the owner was absent, you decided to drive the vehicle. In this case, you did not use force or fear to commit the crime, meaning you are not guilty of carjacking. But the court can charge you with different charges like joyriding.

  • You Did Not Take the Car From the Victim’s Immediate Presence

To face the charges for carjacking in California, you must take the automobile from the immediate presence of the owner. It means if you did not take the car in the immediate presence of the owner, you would not face carjacking charges. Consequently, you might be guilty of committing joyriding or grand theft auto.

Other Related Offenses to Carjacking

Based on the nature of your case, the judge may charge you with another different case instead of carjacking. Also, the court can judge you for another crime besides carjacking. The crimes carry different penalties and sentencing options. The following are the crimes charged alongside carjacking in California.

Robbery – PC 211

Robbery involves taking property from a person against their consent by using fear, force, or any other form of power. For you to face conviction for robbery, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime. If the prosecutor finds it challenging to prove the element, you will not face conviction. The following are the elements of robbery:

  • The defendant took another person's property.
  • It was against the victim's consent.
  • The alleged property was under the control or possession of the victim.
  • The robber applied force or fear during the commission of the crime.

Penalties of Robbery

Robbery takes three different categories based on the severity of the crime. Also, the punishment of the crime differs from one category to the other, as discussed below:

  • First Degree Robbery

You commit first-degree robbery when:

  • The victim of the robbery is a driver or passenger.
  • The crime scene is a boat, trailer, inhabited structure, or house.

Remember, you can still face charges for robbery in California even when the owner of the inhabited structure or house was absent during the commission of the crime. However, the robbery charges will remain valid only when the occupant or structure owner leaves the house with the intent to return. The following are the penalties for first-degree robbery:

  • Formal probation.
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000.
  • 3, 4, or 6 years jail time.
  • Second Degree Robbery

When the robbery does not meet the elements of the first degree, the court considers it a second-degree robbery. The crime carries the following penalties:

  • Felony probation.
  • 2,3, or 5 years imprisonment.
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000.

What are the Legal Defenses for Robbery?

Although the crime carries hectic fines and extensive jail time, an accusation for the crime doesn’t mean you will face conviction. You have a chance to fight the charges through the help of a criminal defense attorney. A well-skilled and experienced attorney is preferable for your case's best outcomes. The attorney can use the following defenses to fight a robbery charge:

  • False allegations.
  • You did not inflict fear or force during the commission of the crime.
  • You had the owner's consent to possess the property.
  • You have the legal right to own the alleged property.
  • You are subject to mistaken identity.

Grand Theft Auto – California PC 487(d)(1)

Grand theft auto means illegally taking a car to deprive the owner permanently or for a certain period. For the court to find you guilty of the crime, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime. The elements include:

  • You took a vehicle belonging to another person.
  • You committed the crime without the victim's consent.
  • The car had a value above $950.
  • When you took the vehicle, you had the intent to deprive the owner for a certain period or permanently.

What are the Penalties for Grand Theft Auto?

The law in California considers grand theft auto a wobbler. It means the prosecutor can file the charge as a felony or misdemeanor based on the circumstances surrounding the case and your criminal record. The penalties for a felony charge are:

  • Sixteen months, two years, or three years jail term.
  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • Both paying a fine and jail term.

The Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Auto

A conviction for grand theft auto can be stressful. However, you still have the opportunity to fight the charge. You need first to hire a well-skilled criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you gather sufficient evidence to fight the charge. The attorney can use the following defenses to protect your rights:

  • You did not have the intent to commit the crime.
  • You had good faith the vehicle belonged to you.
  • You had the owner’s consent.

Auto burglary – California PC 459

According to California laws, you are guilty of auto burglary when entering a locked vehicle with malicious intent. Like in other criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime. The elements are :

  • A certain Intent

To face conviction of the crime, the prosecutor must prove you had a certain intent, and that’s why you entered the locked vehicle. The intent must include taking a property worthy of $950 and above. Also, the intent must be to kidnap an adult or child.

  • Entering a Locked Vehicle

The prosecutor must show the vehicle you entered was locked. Entering a locked vehicle means breaking the vehicle by altering its physical condition by cracking the windows. However, when the vehicle was unlocked but the trunk was locked, you can still face the charges for auto burglary.

Penalties for Auto Burglary

Auto burglary in California is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony charge based on your criminal records and the circumstances surrounding the case. For a misdemeanor, you will serve a county jail for 12 months. When a felony, you will remain behind bars for up to 3 years.

The Legal Defenses for Auto Burglary

For the court to dismiss your case, your criminal defense attorney must employ specific appropriate defenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you achieve the best possible case outcomes. The following are the common defenses your attorney can use to fight the charges:

  • The vehicle in question was unlocked.
  • Lack of certain intent.
  • Insufficient evidence.
  • You had permission from the car owner.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Knowing you are innocent is one thing. But, proving before the criminal court can be stressful. When facing carjacking accusations, you want to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we understand carjacking laws. We will discuss your case, build a strong defense strategy, prove your innocence and win your carjacking case. Call us immediately if law enforcement officers arrest you in or around Pasadena. Contact us at 626-628-0564, and we will share the details of your case and start working on your case as soon as possible.