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Carjacking Laws (PC 215(a)) in California

California Penal Code 215(a): Carjacking

Legal Definition: Carjacking is 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.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 215(a) the prosecution must prove the following:

  1. You took a motor vehicle that was not your own;
  2. The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of a person who possessed the vehicle or was its passenger;
  3. The vehicle was taken against that person’s will;
  4. You used force or fear to take the vehicle or to prevent that person from resisting; AND
  5. When you used force or fear to take the vehicle, you intended to deprive the other person of possession of the vehicle either temporarily or permanently.

What does this mean?

Your intent to take the vehicle must have been formed before or during the time you used force or fear. If you did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then you did not commit carjacking. An act is done against a person’s will if that person does not consent to the act. In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act.

Fear, as used here, means fear of injury to the person/injury to the person’s family or property/immediate injury to someone else present during the incident or to that person’s property. Carjacking is similar to PC 487 or VC 10851, the difference being that the owner of the vehicle is present when you take the car, and while they were present, you use force or fear to take their vehicle.


Carjacking is known as a straight Felony in California. If you are convicted of Carjacking, you could be sentenced to State Prison for upwards of three, five, or nine years. You would be required to serve 85% of that sentence. In addition, Carjacking is a Strike offense as a serious and violent felony under California’s Three Strike Laws and will double and subsequent felony conviction you may receive in the future.

Carjacking is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which will lead to immediate Deportation proceedings for any person in the United States on temporary residency status, as well as hurt any person with a Professional License. You are also subject to severe license restrictions from the DMV upon a conviction of this offense.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Claim of Right
  4. Violation of your Rights
  5. Intoxication

Similar to a robbery, if you are under the belief that the vehicle you are taking back, even with force, is yours, you can use the defense of “Claim of Right”. This means, you are under the impression that someone is in fact stealing your vehicle, and your reaction is to attack the person, scare them, and then retake what you think is your vehicle. This would be a defense against a Carjacking charge.

Call Today

Facing a carjacking charge under PC 215(a) is a serious and potentially life-altering event. With extensive experience in handling such serious and violent felonies, our leading defense attorney at Inland Empire Criminal Defense is well-equipped to provide the robust legal representation required in these complex cases.

Our proven track record in successfully defending clients charged with carjacking stems from an in-depth understanding of the law and a strategic approach to each case. We recognize the importance of humanizing our clients, effectively communicating their background and circumstances to the prosecution, which can be pivotal in achieving a more favorable outcome.

Your freedom and future are our top priorities. We are dedicated to delivering the best possible defense for you or your loved one. Avail of our complimentary initial consultation, and benefit from the round-the-clock availability of our expert team for any queries you might have. For top-notch legal assistance and to safeguard your rights in a carjacking case, contact us at Inland Empire Criminal Defense at 909-939-7126. Rest assured, our office in Ontario, CA, is strategically positioned to serve your legal needs effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Does the attorney offer confidential consultations?

Absolutely, Inland Empire Criminal Defense prioritizes your privacy and confidentiality. Every consultation with our attorney is conducted with the utmost discretion, ensuring your information remains secure and private.

Does the attorney offer payment plans?

Yes, understanding the financial pressures that can come with legal representation, our attorney offers flexible payment plans. This approach ensures that quality legal defense is accessible for all our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Is the consultation free?

Yes, Inland Empire Criminal Defense offers free consultations. This is part of our commitment to providing accessible and transparent legal services to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Are the consultations in person or only over the phone?

We offer both in-person and over-the-phone consultations to accommodate your preferences and needs. Whether you’re in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles County, we ensure that you can access our legal services in the way that suits you best.

Is the office open on weekends?

Our office is typically closed on weekends. However, we do make exceptions for meetings by special arrangement. Our commitment is to be as accommodating as possible to meet the unique needs of our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Does the attorney serve all of California?

Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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