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Car Jack Legal Penalties

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What Does “Carjacking” Mean?

Car jacking refers to a certain type of vehicle theft crime.  A “carjacking” occurs when a person uses force or threats of force to steal a car while the driver is still in the car.  Prior to the 1990’s, the term car jack was not found in criminal statutes.  After numerous reports of carjacking incidents, carjacking laws were added to state and criminal statutes.  It is now a very serious state (and sometimes federal) offense to steal a vehicle using force or intimidation. 

What are Some Car Jack Legal Penalties?

Car jacking is usually classified as a felony offense.  Since it involves both theft of a vehicle and assault, penalties for car jacking can be particularly severe.  These can include:

  • Criminal fines (sometimes in the thousands of dollars)
  • A sentence in a federal prison facility, sometimes up to 10 years

Legal penalties for car jacking will increase if certain factors are present.  These can include:

  • The defendant used a deadly weapon in order to complete the car jacking incident
  • The defendant caused serious bodily harm or death during the car jacking
  • The defendant created a hostage situation by not allowing the passengers to leave the vehicle during the theft
  • The charges are for a repeat offense (i.e., the defendant was previously convicted of car jacking or auto theft

Penalties for car jacking can also include loss of various rights, such as the loss of the right to drive, or the loss of the right to own a firearm.

What are Some Other Legal Considerations Related to Car Jacking?

As mentioned, one of the more serious situations that can occur with the car jacking is if the passengers are still in the vehicle during the theft.  This actually creates a situation where the person can be charged with kidnapping.  Thus, car jacking can involve multiple criminal charges all within a relatively short time frame.

For instance, if the person uses a deadly weapon to steal a car, then drives the car away with the passengers still inside, they can be charged with at least two felonies (assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping), in addition to the carjacking.  Thus, it’s common for a person to be charged with several counts during an incident of carjacking.  This can create a very unfortunate situation in some states, which have a “three strikes” penalty (i.e., the defendant will have a life sentence after their third felony charge).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Car Jack Legal Penalties?

Car jacking is one of the more serious types of auto crimes.  Car jacking can lead to some very serious legal penalties, and so it’s best if you hire an experienced criminal attorney if you need any type of legal assistance.  Your lawyer can help provide you with legal advice, and can represent you during court if you need assistance with trial matters.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 01-22-2013 02:49 PM PST

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