One minute you’re driving down the road and the next police officers are approaching the vehicle with their guns drawn, accusing you of carjacking.
In California, in order for the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty of carjacking under Penal Code § 215, the District Attorney must prove that:
- The defendant took a motor vehicle that was not (his/her) own;
- The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of a person who possessed the vehicle or was its passenger;
- The vehicle was taken against that person’s will;
- The defendant used force or fear to take the vehicle or to prevent that person from resisting; AND
- When the defendant used force or fear to take the vehicle, (he/she) intended to deprive the other person of possession of the vehicle either temporarily or permanently.
Carjacking is a felony. And to make matters worse, it counts as a “strike” against you under the state’s “three strikes law.”
If you’re charged with and convicted of taking a car unlawfully through force or fear, you’ll serve no less than 85 percent of your sentence if you are sent to prison. Sentences can range from probation to three, five or nine years in prison. Carjacking with a gang enhancement carries a sentence of 15 years to life under Penal Code § 186.22(b)(4)(B) . You could also be forced to pay up to $10,000 in fines and actual restitution.
Defending yourself against the charges
Although you may be charged with carjacking you may have a defense. The San Mateo County carjacking lawyers at Ahmed & Sukaram may be able to help.
For example, in California, you cannot be guilty of carjacking if you obtained the vehicle by consent. For example, after a lover’s quarrel your ex says that you forcibly took his or her car keys and drove off in their vehicle in the midst of a heated argument. But, in reality, your ex gave you the keys and told you to go somewhere and cool off.
Or, you may be the victim of mistaken identity. Having your car stolen can happen fast, and the victim(s) are rattled emotionally and physically. They want justice. Often, they can’t remember the exact details of the event, but they want to. So they will give police officers descriptions of the perpetrator based on what they think they remember, not what actually happened. This can lead to false accusations based on broad descriptions of clothing, facial hair or build. This often leads to innocent people being arrested simply because they resemble the description provided by the victim.
Alternatively, you cannot be guilty of carjacking if you formed the intent to take the vehicle only after you used force or fear against the alleged victim. Or, you may not have taken the vehicle by force or fear. Accordingly, you may be innocent of the carjacking charge and may only be guilty of joyriding.
Finding the right criminal defense attorney
If you’ve been accused of and charged with carjacking, the first thing you want to do is hire an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney. At Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law, we help defend people accused of carjacking across the Bay Area, including Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Contact us today to discuss your case and your rights.