What is Carjacking?

Carjacking is robbery that involves taking someone’s car forcefully or violently. The car owner is forced to hand over the vehicle to the thief. The crime may be committed with or without a weapon, with the offender either kicking the owner out of the car or forcing them to remain inside while they take possession of the vehicle.

Offenders often create circumstances to compel car owners to grant them entrance into the car, such as pretending to be injured after an accident. They may also create a scenario that makes the victim stop the vehicle to assist. If you’re facing carjacking charges, consult a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to help you beat the charges.

The Legal Elements of Carjacking

Carjacking is a federal and state offense. In proving a case against an offender, the prosecutor must prove the following critical elements:

  • The offender took the car when it was still in the ownership of another,
  • Against their will,
  •  With the aim to temporarily or permanently deprive them of the car’s possession,
  • Using fear, threat, or force to cause imminent bodily harm.

The distinction between state and federal carjacking is that federal carjacking charges require that the victim’s vehicle was transported, delivered, or received in what was an interstate or international transaction. A skilled Los Angeles grand theft auto lawyer can investigate your case and help you find loopholes that can make the prosecutor drop the charges.

Penalties for Carjacking Crimes

When facing federal carjacking charges, the crime is a felony, and the consequences can be harsh, including lengthy imprisonment. The Federal Carjacking Act (18 USC 2119) stipulates that it’s a felony to seize a car shipped, carried, or received in interstate or international commerce from the owner or presence of another by intimidation, force, or assault.

The prison term is up to 15 years, with a statutory minimum of seven years if the crime caused significant physical harm to a victim. If it results in death, the offender could face life imprisonment. A fine may also be imposed. A skilled grand theft auto attorney in Los Angeles can investigate the case and prepare a solid defense plan.

What is Vehicle Theft?

Vehicle or car theft is the unlawful taking, driving, or stealing of someone else’s vehicle. The offender intends to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of their ownership or possession. In California, the crime can be charged under two laws as follows:

1. Joyriding

Under California Vehicle Code Section 10851, an offender can be charged with theft for unlawfully taking or driving someone else’s car without the owner’s consent. Proving the crime is often easier than Grand Theft Auto, which is discussed below.

Your grand theft auto attorney can help dispute the charges by showing you operated the car with the owner’s consent or had no intention to deprive them of ownership of the vehicle.

2. Grand Theft Auto (GTA)

Under California Penal Code section 487(d)(1), grand theft auto is a crime committed when someone takes your car without your consent. The intention is to deprive you of the car’s ownership or possession permanently.

In other cases, the intention is to deprive you of a significant proportion of the value of the enjoyment of the car. Generally, the offender intended to steal the vehicle, and the offense is Grand Theft Auto, regardless of the car’s value.

Penalties for Vehicle Theft

Joyriding crimes can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. First-time offenders often face misdemeanor charges, and the punishment is a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum of three years in state prison if charged with a felony. Car thefts involving a police car, ambulance, or disabled placard car have a two to four-year state prison sentence.

A grand theft auto conviction carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail if charged as a misdemeanor. It can only be charged as a misdemeanor if the car’s value is less than $950. If accused of a felony, the prison term is between 16 months and three years in state prison.

What Are the Differences Between Carjacking and Vehicle Theft?

Carjacking and vehicle theft involve taking a car from the owner. The primary difference between carjacking and car theft is that carjacking entails using force or coercion to take a vehicle from the owner in their presence. Car theft is simply stealing or taking a vehicle from the owner without their knowledge or consent or in their absence.

For an offender to be convicted of carjacking, the prosecutor must prove that the offender used force to commit the crime. An aggressive criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles can help defend you against the charges using various defense strategies.


Grand theft auto intends to deprive the owner of the vehicle permanently. On the other hand, carjacking must prove the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of their property.

Carjacking is more dangerous than grand theft because the owner is present, and force or threat is involved in making them give up the vehicle. It could lead to fatalities if something goes wrong. You will want to have the legal representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles to help you beat the charges.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Helping You Fight Car Crime Charges

Criminal charges for carjacking or car theft can dramatically affect your life, especially if you’re convicted. You risk paying hefty penalties, ruining your reputation, and serving an imprisonment term. Besides, it may be challenging to get employment opportunities. Consult an aggressive grand theft auto lawyer in San Antonio if charged with car crimes.

They can investigate your case and collect the evidence that works in your favor to help you beat the charges. The Miranda Rights Law Firm hosts a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can provide sound legal advice and help you create an effective defense strategy. Call our office at 213-293-1207 for a FREE case evaluation.