Taking another person’s property by force or fear is a crime. California law specifies that individuals who commit theft of a vehicle, or carjacking, will face harsh penalties. If you or someone close to you has been charged with a felony theft crime such as carjacking, experienced legal counsel can help. Riverside and San Bernardino County theft crime attorney Gregory H. Comings represents individuals facing charges for carjacking and other related offenses. As a skilled advocate, Mr. Comings is prepared to set forth a strong defense tailored to each client, seeking to reduce or dismiss criminal charges brought by the prosecution. The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings provides effective and efficient legal services, consistently prioritizing client communication.
The Legal Elements of Carjacking Must be Proven Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Carjacking is a term for auto theft that occurs when a vehicle is taken from the owner or driver through force or fear of violence. Similar to the crime of robbery, this “taking” of property occurs through force or fear. For the prosecution to successfully convict someone of this serious crime, the elements set forth in California Penal Code section 215 must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The evidentiary burden held by a prosecutor in a carjacking case involves proving five elements of the crime. First, the defendant must have taken a vehicle that was not his or her own. Taking refers to moving the vehicle some distance, regardless of the distance. In some situations, the prosecution may be able to prove that a taking occurred even though the vehicle remained in the victim’s presence. For example, the victim may have remained in the car during a carjacking.
Next, this vehicle must have been taken from the immediate presence of an individual who either possessed the vehicle or was a passenger. This taking must have been against that person’s will through force or fear. Examples include fear of injury to the person, or to someone else present during the incident. Finally, at the time the defendant used force or fear, there must have been the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the other person of their vehicle.
Other offenses that are related to carjacking include grand theft auto, according to California Penal Code section 487(a). Robbery shares some similar elements to the crime of carjacking, set forth in California Penal Code section 211.
Carjacking is a Felony and a “Strike” According to California’s “Three Strikes Law”
California law designates carjacking as a felony, punishable by up to nine years in prison. As a violent felony, carjacking counts as a strike under the Three Strikes Law. When a defendant is convicted of a third strike, they may be imprisoned for twenty five years to life.
Enhancements may factor into convictions for carjacking, particularly if the defendant used a weapon during the commission of the crime. Those defendants who were armed with an assault weapon at the time of the carjacking may face additional prison terms. “Armed” does not require that the weapon was used, but only mandates that the weapon remained in the defendant’s possession.
Additionally, if a victim suffered great bodily injury during the carjacking, an additional six years in prison may be added onto the defendant’s sentence. The use of a deadly or dangerous weapon during the carjacking, or attempted carjacking, will increase the punishment. “Deadly weapon” includes objects or weapons that are dangerous, or used in a way that is likely to cause death or great bodily injury.
Asserting a Legal Defense to the Crime of Carjacking
The State of California is required to prove all elements of the criminal charges brought against a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. The specific intent requirement for carjacking includes the intent to take the vehicle or deprive the owner of the vehicle before or during the use of force or fear. In other words, the defendant must harbor this intent before or during the time they take the vehicle. If the defendant held the intent after their use of fear to take the vehicle, then they may have a complete defense against the carjacking allegation. The facts of the case will dictate whether this defense applies and a skilled attorney can make clear the best approach to mounting this defense.
Another potential defense to a carjacking charge is consent. Because the prosecutor must demonstrate that the vehicle was taken against the other person’s will, if the owner or the possessor consented to the taking, then this element will not be satisfied. Consent takes different forms, including permission that is voluntarily given. After providing consent, the owner cannot later state that the defendant took the vehicle against their will. Evidence that the owner consented to the defendant’s taking the vehicle would likely result in dismissal of the carjacking charge.
Theft Crime Attorney Representing People in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties
Facing criminal charges, particularly for a felony crime such as carjacking, is daunting. When you consult with a skilled criminal defense lawyer early in the process of a criminal investigation, or upon your arrest, you are positioning yourself to protect your rights. Attorney Gregory Comings works on behalf of those accused of crimes throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, asserting legal defenses that may result in a lessened punishment. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (951) 686-3457 or contact us online. We assist people throughout Southern California, including in Riverside, Palm Springs, Indio, Temecula, Moreno Valley, Highland, Ontario, Victorville, and Rancho Cucamonga.