~ car jacking ~

Under Penal Code § 215, the crime of carjacking occurs when someone takes a car (or other motor vehicle) from a person, or a passenger in the vehicle by means of force or fear with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the person in “possession” of the vehicle of the vehicle itself. The terms “force or fear” means that you must actually use physical force to obtain the vehicle or threaten to use physical force (violence) to take the vehicle. The term “immediate presence” means that a person does not even have to be physically inside the vehicle when it is taken, but simply within a reasonable proximity of the vehicle itself. For example, if someone left their car running while making a quick trip into a convenience store, depending on their physical proximity to the vehicle at the time it was taken, a carjacking charge might still be brought. Other charges that are similarly related include Penal Code § 487 (d) (1) - Grand Theft Auto and Vehicle Code § 10851, which is often referred to as “Joyriding”.

This law is written in such a way that it does not matter if the person from whom the vehicle is taken actually owns the vehicle, was using the vehicle or is simply a passenger in the vehicle. If a Defendant uses force or fear to take a vehicle they can be found guilty of carjacking. It also makes no difference if the ultimate intent was to return the vehicle or keep it as the law, as written, simply makes depriving someone of their vehicle for even a moment in time a crime.

Carjacking is a felony and a conviction will likely result in a “Strike” on the Defendant’s criminal record because of the violent nature of the crime. Carjacking is punishable a State Prison sentence for 2, 3 or 4 years or by both a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment. See Penal Code § 245 (a) (1).

Penal Code § 215 states that:

(a) “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.

To view the list of crimes by code section (Statute), please click here.

To return to the list of California crimes in alphabetical order, please click here.


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