CA Penal Code 215

Carjacking

Carjacking or a CA Penal Code 215, is a serious problem in California and is handled very strictly by the judicial system. Carjacking is when you take a person’s vehicle from their immediate possession with the use of force or fear. In order to be convicted of carjacking the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime:

  1. A person was in immediate possession of a car
  2. You took that car from the driver, or passenger
  3. You took the car against their will with force or fear
  4. You did so with the intent to deprive the owner (or passenger) permanently or temporarily

If the prosecutor can effectively prove these elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt then you will face:

  • Formal probation and up to one year in county jail, OR
  • Up to nine years in state prison, and
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

You will receive this punishment for every victim in the vehicle you stole.

If you inflict great bodily injury upon the victim then you will face an additional 3-to-6 year prison sentence in addition to the initial punishment.

If the prosecution can prove that you are a member of a gang and you carjacked the vehicle to benefit the gang then you will face an automatic 15-years-to-life sentence in addition to the initial punishment.

If you “used” a gun then you will face an additional 10 year prison sentence; if you fired a gun then you will face an additional 20 years in prison; and if you killed or inflicted serious injury upon the victim then you face 25-years-to-life in prison.

Because of the violent nature of the crime, if you are convicted of carjacking then you will receive a “strike” on your record in accordance to California’s Three Strikes law.

Also, if you are a legal immigrant and you are convicted of carjacking then it is possible that you will deported.

Prosecuting Carjacking – CA Penal Code 215

As previously mentioned, in order to be convicted of carjacking the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime:

  1. A person was in immediate possession of a car
  2. You took that car from the driver, or passenger
  3. You took the car against their will with force or fear
  4. You did so with the intent to deprive the owner (or passenger) permanently or temporarily

The first element of the crime is that a person was in immediate possession of a car. This means the vehicle was in the victim’s immediate presence, reach, observation, or control; in other words, that the victim could retain possession of the car if you were not there.

The next element of the crime that the prosecutor must prove is that you took the car. This means that you took possession of the car and moved it some distance. However, if you were unable to move the car then you will charged with attempted carjacking. There is a requirement that you moved the car, even a slight distance, in order to be convicted of carjacking.

The following element of the crime is that you took the car against the owner’s will. This simply means that you did not have consent to take the car. The important terms for this element however are force and fear. Fear and force are both defined by the state to refer to fear of harm to one’s person, property, family or people/property that are present at the scene of the incident.

And finally, the last element of the crime that the prosecutor has to prove in order to convict you of carjacking is that you took the car with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently or temporarily. Your intentions as to what to do after you have the car are not important, just as long as you took the car for some period of time.

Defending Carjacking – CA Penal Code 215

There are several approaches that your criminal defense attorney can take to prove your innocence. The first thing your attorney will investigate is whether or not you used force or fear to take the vehicle from the victim. If you simply took the car because you saw the keys were sitting there and the vehicle was unattended then you will not be guilty of carjacking, but most likely grand theft auto. If your attorney can prove that simply took the car and did not evoke fear in the victim then you will not be convicted of carjacking.

Because of the nature of the crime, it is not uncommon for victims to mistakenly identify the perpetrator. Victims of violent crimes are usually under a great amount of stress and typically fixate on the weapon rather then the criminal’s face. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate whether or not the victim can accurately identify the perpetrator and if he/she cannot then that makes the prosecution’s case very weak. Your attorney will also talk to witnesses and thoroughly read through the police report to look for any inconsistencies.

If you had consent to take the victim’s car then you will not be convicted of carjacking. It’s important to note however that consent only pertains to the agreed upon use of the car. If you borrowed your neighbor’s truck to move some furniture but then decided to take if for a spin you will not be charged with carjacking, however, you might be charged with grand theft auto or a similar offense. If you were given consent to use a person’s vehicle and did not exceed the agreed upon usage then you will not be convicted of grand theft.

One defense that your criminal defense attorney cannot utilize is the claim of right defense. If somebody stole your car and you see them driving down the street you are not allowed to steal it back from the with the use of force or fear. The reason this is not a viable defense is because California considers carjacking a crime against possession, not ownership.

If you or a loved one is facing a carjacking charge then it’s imperative to discuss your case with an attorney immediately. Seppi Esfandi is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and has extensive practice representing criminals for all sorts of criminal matters, including carjacking.

 

References

[1] “Carjacking” is the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle of his or her possession, accomplished by means of force or fear.

(b) Carjacking is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of three, five, or nine years.

(c) This section shall not be construed to supersede or affect Section 211. A person may be charged with a violation of this section and Section 211. However, no defendant may be punished under this section and Section 211 for the same act which constitutes a violation of both this section and Section 211.

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