California Carjacking Law – Penal Code §215

california carjacking law

According to California law (Penal Code §215) carjacking is committed when a motor vehicle is taken from the possession of another under these circumstances:
– It is taken from his/her immediate presence, or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle.
– It is taken against his or her will.
– It is taken with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle.
– It is taken by means of force or fear.
– The property taken from another person is an automobile.

Pursuant to Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 9.46, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant is guilty based on the following facts:
1) A person possessed a car.
2) The vehicle was taken from possessor’s immediate presence (or from the passenger’s immediate presence).
3) The act was committed against the will.
4) The possession was accomplished by means of force or fear.
5) The crime was committed with the intent to deprive the owner the possession of their vehicle either permanently or temporarily.

Let’s clarify the main terms of California carjacking law in order to understand them better. “Against the will” means without consent. The words “take” or “taking” require proof of the following facts:
a) taking possession of a motor vehicle,
b) movement of the vehicle, slight or otherwise.

“Immediate presence” that is an area under observation or control, so that it gives an opportunity, keep possession of the vehicle if it would not be used force or fear.
At first sight, carjacking seems similar to other theft crimes like a GTA, joyriding.
However, there are essential differences between these crimes. These crimes differ by one crucial treat, in particular, carjacking is considered to be committed by means of force or fear. The terms “fear” and “force” mean fear of harm of the individual’s property, relatives or someone (something) valuable to the victim. Moreover, in carjacking, it is also a crime when the offender deprives the vehicle not only from its rightful owner, but also its passengers.

First of all, you must understand better the various aspects of your case in order to be able to provide relevant information for your legal defense. Secondly, it is not considered a crime if there was consent from its rightful owner/possessor; also when neither force nor fear were or force/fear was imposed. It is also not a crime if you did not carjack the vehicle and the victims simply did not recognize the actual offender because of stress. However, it should be remembered, even the owner of the vehicle has no right to take his car back from the possessor by means of force or fear.

In California, carjacking is charged as a felony.
If a person is accused of carjacking, he may face sentenced up to three (3), five (5), or nine (9) years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both imprisonment and the fine.
Moreover, the prosecutor can prove that another person suffered a great bodily injury, in consequence, the convicted will face more severe penalty. Great bodily injury imposes from three (3) to six (6) year prison sentence in addition and consecutive to the carjacking essential penalty[1]. Any person who is convicted of a carjacking committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members, shall, upon conviction of that felony, be sentenced to up to fifteen (15) year prison sentence or life imprisonment in addition and consecutive to carjacking sentence.[2]

If you faced an accusation of carjacking, DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT US! The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. We handle every aspect of your case, from the first step to the very last court hearing.

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000


[1] California’s great bodily injury enhancement (California Penal Code 12022.7 PC)
[2] Criminal street gang enhancement ( California Penal Code 186.22)

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