Were You Charged with California Crime Carjacking Under Penal Code 215?
Carjacking is a serious felony under California’s criminal laws. A conviction can result in years or even decades of incarceration, in addition to thousands of dollars in fines. The defendant will also receive a felony record, which can make it substantially harder to find employment, earn professional licenses, and take advantage of many other opportunities in life.
If you or one of your loved ones has been charged with carjacking in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, you need an experienced California defense attorney in your corner. Turn to The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC for quality legal representation.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Ventura County Criminal Defense Attorneys
At The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, our knowledgeable criminal lawyers have earned a reputation for providing aggressive, effective, and dedicated legal representation. Not only have we been representing defendants charged with carjacking in Santa Barbara and Ventura for more than 20 years, founding attorney Ron S. Bamieh’s extensive experience includes working as senior deputy district attorney for Ventura County. This gives our legal team unique practical insight into how prosecutors build carjacking cases, enabling a stronger, more informed defense strategy.
A carjacking conviction can have grave consequences for your personal and professional life, including the loss of your liberty. Don’t wait another day to start reviewing your legal situation with a trusted defense lawyer. Call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 585-5056 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation.
What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for the Defendant to Be Convicted?
Carjacking is a felony crime under Cal. Penal Code 215. A person can be charged with carjacking in California when all of the following elements are met:
- The defendant steals a car, truck, van, or other motor vehicle from its lawful owner.
- The defendant either takes the motor vehicle from the lawful owner’s person, or takes the vehicle in the lawful owner’s immediate presence. “Immediate presence” could mean, for example, that the owner is standing nearby in a store while the car is stolen from the parking lot outside. In this scenario, the owner is physically nearby, is in possession of the keys, and has the means to exercise control over the vehicle.
- The defendant commits the act with intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the lawful owner of the vehicle.
- The defendant accomplishes the carjacking “by means of force or fear,” which means using physical force or putting the victim in fear for their safety.
The prosecutor must be able to prove all of the elements listed above, beyond a reasonable doubt, in order for the defendant to be convicted of carjacking. For example, stealing a car from an isolated parking lot in the middle of the night, while still a serious crime, does not constitute carjacking because:
- The car wasn’t taken from the owner’s person or immediate presence.
- There was no element of force or fear.
If the jurors are not unanimous in finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, called a “hung jury,” the judge will declare a mistrial and schedule a new trial. However, long before the trial stage of the court process is ever reached, the prosecutor must establish probable cause. If the court does not find probable cause, the case must be dismissed.
Criminal Penalties for Stealing a Car in Santa Barbara, California
California distinguishes between three types of criminal offenses: misdemeanors, felonies, and wobblers, which are offenses that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the situation. Carjacking is a felony under Cal. Penal Code 215(a), which describes carjacking, in part, as “the felonious taking of a motor vehicle.” Carjacking and other felonies are more serious than misdemeanors for two reasons:
- They carry longer prison sentences. A person convicted of carjacking in California can be sentenced to one of the following prison terms:
- 3 years in prison
- 5 years in prison
- 9 years in prison
- Many felonies, including carjacking, count as “strikes” under California’s three strikes law. Under this law, a person who is convicted of a “serious felony” or “violent felony” with two prior felony convictions must be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Carjacking is both a serious felony and a violent felony and therefore counts as a strike.
The defendant may also be fined up to $10,000 and/or be sentenced to probation.
Additionally, Cal. Penal Code 215(c) provides the following: “A person may be charged with [carjacking] and [robbery]. However, no defendant may be punished under [the carjacking and robbery statutes] for the same act which constitutes a violation of both [statutes].”
The penalties for a carjacking conviction are severe, especially if the defendant has any prior felony offenses. If you or one of your family members was arrested for carjacking in California, it is urgent that you contact The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC right away at (805) 585-5056 for a free legal consultation