Carjacking is a type of vehicle theft that occurs when someone uses force or threats of force to steal a car while the driver is still in the car. Carjacking is a very serious state offense that can have serious legal penalties. This may also be a federal offense. The penalties for carjacking are usually more severe if certain aggravating factors are present.

What Penalties can I Face for Carjacking?

Carjacking is usually classified as a felony because it is more than theft of a vehicle, but also includes removing to threatening to remove another person from the vehicle. The penalties for this crime vary based on the laws of your state, and how much force was used during the crime. Some examples of penalties imposed for carjacking are having to pay criminal fines, facing jail time, losing your right to vote and losing your right to own a firearm.

To qualify as a federal offense, the carjacking must be for a vehicle that was transported, shipped, or crossed state/foreign lines. Given that most vehicles are made out of state and many are purchased out of state due to lower pricing or tax reasons, a car can easily turn a state criminal charge of carjacking into a federal charge.

What can Make a Carjacking Sentence More Severe?

Legal penalties for carjacking will most likely be harsher if certain aggravating factors are present that make the crime more severe. These factors include:

  • Using a deadly weapon;
  • Causing serious bodily harm or death during to the carjacking victim;
  • Creating a hostage situation by not allowing the victim to leave the car (in this situation you can also be charged with kidnapping); and
  • Having previous carjacking or auto-related felonies on your criminal record.

In addition, if a person is charged with another felony because of the circumstances of the crime (such as assault with a deadly weapon or kidnapping), the penalties imposed can be much harsher. Some states also have a “three strikes” penalty law, which means you can face a life sentence in jail after getting a third felony charge.

Do I Need an Attorney if I have been Charged with Carjacking?

Carjacking is a crime that can lead to some very serious legal penalties. If you have been charged with carjacking, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help provide you with legal advice, educate you on your state’s carjacking laws and represent you during court.