Under California Penal Code, carjacking is a very serious theft crime. To many, the offense is committed when someone steals a motor vehicle. However, the legal definition goes much further to include the taking of a car with the use of force or fear.
To be charged with carjacking in California, there must be some evidence that you administered physical force or there was a threat of such physical harm. The person who is the victim of the carjacking can be the driver or passenger, and it is irrelevant whether the person is the owner of the car. If you’ve been charged, it is highly recommended that you consult a San Diego burglary and robbery lawyer immediately to avoid or minimize the possible consequences of a conviction.
Penalties for a California Carjacking Conviction
The law relating to carjacking is covered under California Penal Code 215. The crime is charged as a felony and carries probation and prison time if you are found guilty. The penalty can include 9 years of imprisonment. Prison time at sentencing can increase if the following elements are present:
- There is injury to the victim – If during the execution of the carjacking, the victim received great bodily injury, an additional 3 to 6 years can be added at the time of sentencing.
- A gun was used – If the particulars of your carjacking charge includes the use of a gun, depending on how that weapon was used, add-on years for prison time can vary from 10, 20, and 25 years.
- The offense was gang-related – California’s lawmakers are serious about reducing gang-related crimes and if found guilty of carjacking that was for the benefit of a gang, there is mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
It is clear that being charged with carjacking is no joke. Additionally, a conviction for carjacking is considered a “strike” under California law, requiring the defendant to serve at least 85 percent of the prison time before the possibility of parole. Accordingly, you will need a San Diego carjacking lawyer who is equipped with the knowledge and experience to prepare the best defense to secure a not guilty verdict or to get your charge reduced to a lesser offense.
Defending Your California Carjacking Charge
With these serious consequences associated with this crime, proving your innocence and staying out of prison will depend on your legal team utilizing any of the following legal defenses that the law allows:
- There was no force or fear – The use of force or fear is an important element of the crime of carjacking. If the prosecution is not able to provide evidence of this, or you are able to prove that there was no use of force or fear, you cannot be found guilty of carjacking. However, if you use this defense and admit to taking the car without consent, you may be found guilty of a lesser crime.
- Consent – Where there is consent from the alleged victim to take the car, there can be no charge for carjacking. Evidence of this can have charges dismissed, and if the matter proceeds to trial, consent is a good defense.
- Mistaken identification – In many cases of carjacking, accurate identification can become difficult, because of the fast pace and stressful circumstances surrounding the event. Your lawyer can put forward information to show that the victim is mistaken in his or her identification of you as the carjacker.
Although you are innocent until proven guilty, the best route to securing your innocence is working with your California lawyer to present a good legal defense. Trust McElfresh Law to prepare a detailed and air-tight defense to secure a not guilty verdict and keep you out of jail.
Call An Experienced San Diego Carjacking Lawyer
Knowing that you are innocent is one thing, but proving it can be a challenge. When charged with a serious offense like that of carjacking, you need an experienced San Diego carjacking lawyer to fight your charge.
For years, McElfresh Law has served our clients with strong legal representation at the most troubling time of their lives. We understand how overwhelming and intimidating the criminal justice system can be and we will stand beside you to fight to prove your innocence. Give us a call at (858) 756-7107 and let us start planning your defense today.