Orange County Car Jacking Attorney

Were You Charged with Stealing a Car?

Carjacking is a serious felony, punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to nine years in California. Carjacking is defined under California Penal Code section 215 as the following:

"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."

A prosecutor must therefore prove the following six elements to convict a person of carjacking:

1. Felonious Taking of a Motor Vehicle

The Supreme Court of California has determined that "felonious taking" requires that a vehicle must be physically moved. The distance can be short, but it must be moved some distance to be considered carjacking. If the vehicle has not been moved but the other elements of carjacking are present, the person can be charged with attempted carjacking.

2. In the Possession of Another

The vehicle must have been in the possession of another person. Possession does not require being inside of the vehicle. The term merely means having use of or control over a vehicle. Moreover, the possessor need not be the owner of the vehicle – any person who is in possession counts.

3. From the Person or in the Immediate Presence of the Possessor

A vehicle taken "from the person" refers to the act of physically removing a person from a vehicle. A vehicle is in a person's "immediate presence" if he is close enough to it that he could have been reasonably expected to retain possession of it if not for the force exerted or the fear instilled. Forcibly taking the keys to a person's vehicle can also constitute carjacking, even if the victim is not near the vehicle when it is taken.

4. Taken Against the Possessor's Will

A vehicle is taken against a person's will unless he or she consents to the act. If a person consents, then there has not been a carjacking. Consent must be free and voluntary. If a person doesn't understand what he or she is consenting to, or if the individual is coerced or threatened into consenting, then that consent will not be legally effective.

5. With Intent to Permanently or Temporarily Deprive the Person in Possession of It

What is important to note regarding this element is that under the carjacking statute, it is irrelevant whether a defendant wanted to permanently or temporarily take the vehicle. Even if the intent is to keep the vehicle for just five minutes or to drive it a couple of blocks away, this element is still met.

6. Accomplished by Means of Force or Fear

Force or fear must be used against the victim as a means of taking possession of the vehicle. If the defendant forms an intent to take the vehicle only after the use of force or fear, that does not constitute carjacking because the force or fear was not used for the purpose of taking the vehicle.

If force or fear are not used to take a vehicle, the person will not be charged with carjacking. Instead, the crime may be "grand theft auto" under Penal Code section 487(d) or the unlawful taking of a vehicle under California Vehicle Code 10851.

Building a Defense to a Carjacking Accusation

For a person to be convicted of carjacking, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged perpetrator's actions meet or satisfy each of the above required elements. Therefore, an effective defense will normally focus on showing that one or more of the elements are lacking. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know where the prosecution's case is weakest and focus his or her defense there. Due to the complex nature of this crime, it is important to hire an attorney who specializes in criminal defense handle your case.

As an attorney with years of experience practicing criminal defense law in Los Angeles and throughout Orange County, I am here to help. Call the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes at 714-423-6928 to schedule a consultation. My law office is proud to provide client-focused service and to answer any questions you may have.


California Penal Code Section 215

California Penal Code Section 487(d)

California Vehicle Code 10851

Justia, California Criminal Jury Instructions, Carjacking, 2006

Justia, People v. Hayes, 1990

Supreme Court of California Resources (SCOCAL), People v. Lopez , S106681, 2003


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