In another post, I discussed the crime of robbery. Although robbery can apply to the taking of any property by force, if the property taken is a motor vehicle (including cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters), it can also be charged under Penal Code section 215 – Carjacking.
Carjacking is taking of a motor vehicle from a person or their immediate presence by force or fear. The law also says that a passenger can be the victim of a carjack, not just the driver or owner of the car. The “immediate presence” part of the crime sometimes gets stretched too far by the prosecution. The law requires that in order to be guilty of this crime, the victim must be in possession of their car. If a car is stolen from a driveway, but the owner isn’t anywhere near, it cannot be carjacking.
The punishment for carjacking is severe – up to nine years in state prison. There may be additional sentencing enhancements for the use of a weapon under the 10-20-life law. Under that section, using a gun, even if it is just shown to intimidate the victim, adds 10 years to the sentence. If the gun is fired, even if nobody is hit, it adds an additional 20 years. If somebody is shot and suffers substantial injury, it adds 25 to life.
Carjacking is also a strike under California’s “three strikes” law , potentially increasing any future punishment for a felony conviction.