If you think that carjacking and auto theft are the same thing, you’re not alone. While both crimes do involve taking a car without permission, carjacking is the more serious offense. The key difference between a carjacking and a plain auto theft is that when someone engages in a carjacking, they use the threat of violence to obtain the vehicle.
Carjacking is addressed in Penal Code 215 PC, which defines carjacking as a: “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.”
To successfully convict a defendant of carjacking, the prosecution must prove that either physical force was used on the victim or that the defendant threatened immediate physical harm if the victim didn’t submit to their wishes. It’s important to note that the victim could be the car’s actual owner, a person who was driving, or even a passenger. If physical violence or there is a threat of physical violence happens to obtain control of a vehicle, it’s a carjacking case.
Getting charged with carjacking in California is an extremely serious thing. All carjacking cases are handled as felonies. If you’re convicted of carjacking in California, you could be sentenced to spend the next nine years of your life in a state prison.
In most carjacking cases, carjacking is just one of the charges you face. Most carjacking cases involve a long list of charges that can include gun-related charges, auto theft, assault, driving infractions, and even kidnapping. The more charges there are attached to your carjacking case, the more time you’ll serve if you’re convicted.
If you’re convicted of carjacking, the judge will look at the circumstances surrounding the case as well as your criminal history and will sentence you to three, five, or nine years in a state prison. They can also attach a maximum fine of $10,000 to your sentence.
If you’re charged with carjacking and there was more than one victim, you’ll face a separate carjacking charge for every single victim.