Carjacking charges will attract serious implications for arrested and accused persons, especially after the judge finds you guilty. For any possible outcome, you will first need to undergo a criminal trial, where a prosecutor will present their case against you to try and convince the judge of your guilt. Although some arrested persons choose to represent themselves during these hearings, working with a defense attorney is highly advisable.

Thanks to their support, you can improve your chances of a favorable outcome, including complete acquittal or significant sentence reductions. With the right team, you will worry less about technical requirements like sourcing evidence and instead collaborate with your team for the necessary input. With Koeing Law Office, you will work with some of the most experienced attorneys ready to help with your carjacking charges.

Based on experience handling similar cases, you can expect a smooth operation process that puts your needs first. Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of clients in Bakersfield, California, giving them an excellent experience.

What Carjacking Entails

When a law enforcement officer arrests you for carjacking, you may be curious about the specific information applicable during your trial. The California Penal Code prohibits carjacking under section 215, defining it as unlawfully taking someone’s vehicle while they had it in their immediate possession.

Subsequently, arrested suspects are answerable to the charge if the prosecutor can present the elements of the crime demonstrating that they took the car in another person’s possession. Notably, the trial process is lengthy and requires the prosecutor to consolidate their evidence in advance for a credible case.

The best way to prepare yourself for the oncoming trial is by partnering with a defense lawyer who will help you anticipate the prosecutor’s case and prepare defenses. Additionally, you can inquire more about the steps to expect during the trial at this stage to help you provide input where necessary.

Elements of Crime Related to Carjacking

Since the prosecutor is mandated to prove you are guilty of the offense in question, they need to establish their case sufficiently. Doing so requires the prosecution team to focus on each crime element at a time and exhaust legal arguments demonstrating your participation.

The law imposes high standards of proof in criminal cases because of the possible outcomes you may face if found guilty. Jail and fine sentences can significantly change your life, so the judge or jury must have justifiable grounds for finding you guilty. Hence, the standard of proof for the prosecutor to satisfy is that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Based on this, the following elements of crime will guide the prosecutor's case as they attempt to prove you are guilty:

The Victim in Question Possessed the Vehicle

Proving that the victim was in possession of their vehicle forms the starting point of the case, as your accusations surround taking the vehicle’s possession. Thus, the case would be baseless without proof of initial possession.

Noteworthy, the term ‘possession’ is open to different interpretations, depending on the case circumstances. Hence, the person does not necessarily need to have been inside the car during the alleged carjacking time.

For example, the victim may have had the vehicle if it was within their reach, even if they were not inside. Parking the vehicle and briefly walking away illustrates this point well, as the vehicle is within reach.

Similarly, the victim may have been observing the vehicle if it was under their care. Examples of these circumstances include leaving your car at the garage under a mechanic’s care or with a loved one as you prepare to travel.

Finally, possession may also involve having the vehicle under your control by driving it, which is a more common scenario in carjacking cases. Hence, your accusations will entail removing the victim from the vehicle and possessing it to continue its control.

You Took Possession of the Vehicle in the Victim’s Presence

Secondly, the prosecutor must show that you took the vehicle from the victim while they were present. Establishing this element is essential because it distinguishes carjacking from similar offenses like common theft. Therefore, establishing the victim’s immediate presence is essential for the prosecutor to prove further that you violated the alleged victim’s right to own property.

Various evidential sources are available for the prosecutor’s reference, and learning about the possibilities can benefit you. Firstly, the prosecution team may call on witnesses present at the crime scene when you took possession of the vehicle. Their evidence builds on the case facts and may help corroborate the prosecutor’s statements.

Additionally, surveillance footage or audio from the crime scene area will significantly help the prosecutor’s case, especially if it captures all the necessary information. Many vehicles have pre-installed dashboard cameras, making it easier for the prosecutor to source the evidence to build on their case.

Police reports created after your arrest can also help shed more light on the events leading to the arrest, including where the officers found you. Moreover, findings from the investigation officers, like fingerprints inside the vehicle, will incriminate you further.

Learning about these possible approaches from the prosecutor will help you prepare for counterarguments or establish the best way forward in advance.

You Took Possession of the Vehicle Forcefully or by Causing Fear

Another distinguishing factor between a carjacking offense and related crimes like grand theft auto is using force or fear tactics to obtain the victim’s compliance. The prosecutor should focus on demonstrating that your threats or use of force to the victim, their loved ones, or their property were the primary coercion factors.

You should note that the prosecutor can only fully prove this element if they can also demonstrate that you caused the victim reasonable fear if your threats only involved immediate persons or property. Any threats to third parties outside the crime scene are insufficient to cause reasonable fear within the scope of the law.

Furthermore, the tactics you used to cause fear should be reasonable to invoke fear for the victim’s safety. The general approach to establishing this is whether the victim felt compelled to give in to your demands to avoid possible safety risks. You can also expect the prosecutor to retrieve the statements you made or their reconstruction to provide further information to the judge or jury.

Since obtaining possession of the vehicle using fear or force means that the victim did not consent to it, they may have resisted your attacks at first. If so, any evidence showing their attempts to escape or to engage in self-defense will not absolve you from facing the repercussions of your actions. 

Moreover, the prosecutor can prove this crime element successfully even when the victim could not understand what was happening. Although the victim will not have accepted or refused your demands under force or fear, they still face their vehicle's permanent or temporary deprivation. Subsequently, the prosecutor can demonstrate how you removed them from the car and broke the law.

You Took the Vehicle to Temporarily or Permanently Deprive the Owner of its Possession

Carjacking falls under the general theft crime classification, so the prosecutor should also show the intention to deprive others of their property permanently. The legal principles applicable in carjacking cases only require the prosecutor to show that you intended to deprive the victim of the car.

Any consideration of whether the deprivation was temporary or permanent is inconsequential as long as you took the vehicle without consent. Establishing this point is essential for the prosecutor because it prevents you from raising counterarguments quickly, especially if you intend to return the vehicle.

Since your methods of obtaining possession violate the law, you will still be answerable even if you can provide sufficient justification for your intentions to return the car. Thus, the prosecutor’s primary concern is proving that you had criminal intent to take away the vehicle at the time in question.

They can prove this by demonstrating that you left the victim stranded as you took off with the vehicle. Further, they can prove that you had no prior communication with the victim, meaning they were unaware of your intentions to possess the vehicle.

Defenses Applicable in a Carjacking Case

As the accused, you want to prepare and present the strongest defense possible for your case through your criminal attorney. Doing so will raise reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s case, lowering their chances of succeeding against you.

During your case preparation stage, you can consult your attorney about the best approaches to take in your defense hearing. Establishing the most suitable approaches early is beneficial because not all defenses apply to your case. Hence, you will have an easier time gathering information when you understand the counterarguments you intend to limit yourself to.

Some applicable defenses for use are:

You Obtained the Vehicle Owner’s Permission to Possess It

Using consent as a defense can raise a strong defense, primarily if you can support it with compelling evidence. By presenting the relevant information about the consent you obtained, you will introduce a new approach to your case, giving the judge or jury alternative facts to consider.

Documentary evidence is the best option in this case because it eliminates the possibility of emerging disputes or doubts from the prosecutor. As long as you present a signed agreement detailing that you will take possession of the vehicle, it should serve as reliable evidence.

However, your attorney should also conduct due diligence and verify that the document is original. In doing so, they will counter any claims from the prosecutor surrounding possible document forgery.

You can also rely on alternative evidential sources like recorded conversations, text messages, or witness testimonies supporting your claims. If the information can show that the alleged victim was aware that you intended to take their vehicle, you may succeed in avoiding penalties.

You Did Not Invoke Fear or Use Force on the Victim

Alternatively, you can dispute having used force or fear to coerce the victim into letting their vehicle go. Choosing this defense can result in a successful outcome for you, but only if your attorney conducts enough research on the facts in question. Notably, this defense requires your team to work on multiple factors simultaneously because you will be disputing a whole crime element.

If the prosecutor’s evidence against you was overwhelming, you might have difficulty negating it, as you will have to obtain your proof. In doing so, you want to acquire evidence from credible sources to avoid tarnishing your credibility before the judge or jury.

After the judge assesses your evidence and compares it to the prosecutor’s, they will determine the most compelling source and issue a decision in their favor. If you are successful, you can expect an acquittal or a sentence reduction. The judge applies their discretion to determine whether you still had the criminal intent to deprive the owner of their vehicle despite not using force or fear.

Your Case Involves Police Misconduct

Further, you may rely on police misconduct as a defense if you notice inconsistencies in your case. Many forms of misconduct include planting evidence, forceful confessions, and altering police reports to accuse you falsely.

You can consult your attorney on the best approach to apply in your case when considering this defense, as it involves assuming officers of a severe offense. Therefore, you want to obtain as much evidence as necessary to help you prove your case and avoid facing penalties. You can expect a favorable outcome if your evidence satisfies the judge or jury; you can expect a favorable outcome.

You are a Victim of a Mistaken Identity

Criminal cases may also involve a wrongfully accused person based on mistaken identity. The issue may arise from negligence as investigation officers conduct their duties or wrongful accusations by malicious parties.

Usually, mistaken identity issues should arise at the earliest opportunity to prevent the court from proceeding with the trial to its conclusion. However, the judge may sometimes order the case to proceed based on the preliminary information before them and until you have a chance to raise the defense.

Thus, if you waited until the defense hearing to revisit the issue, you want to prepare adequately before presenting your argument. This involves sourcing the required evidence to show that you are not the correct accused person.

You can provide your identity details and compare them to the person you believe should be facing trial. Additionally, you can offer to cooperate with the investigation officer or the prosecutor to provide details about the rightful criminal.

However, you should always support your position with reliable evidence to improve your credibility in court. This is because you will be negating what the prosecutor’s case entails, and without evidence, the judge may perceive you as not genuine.

Penalties for Carjacking

If your defenses are unsuccessful, your case proceeds to the sentencing stage, where the judge issues penalties for the wrongful actions. The Penal Code provides sentencing guidelines and restrictions that the judge will apply using discretion, and learning about them is essential.

Carjacking offenses fall within the felony category, attracting severe punishments for defendants. Based on Penal Code provisions, you risk facing three, five, or nine years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. Alternatively, the judge may issue a lighter penalty and sentence you to probation and a one-year jail sentence. They will issue this directive if your case has mitigating factors warrant revising the harsh felony penalties.

Conversely, the judge can enhance your sentence if your case involved aggravating factors like causing grievous bodily harm, property damage or if you cooperated with a street gang. Each set of aggravating factors results in a different set of sentence enhancement rules. Often, you risk facing three to six more years in jail on top of your initial sentence for causing bodily harm, while acting for a street gang may attract a fifteen-year sentence or even life imprisonment.

Offenses Related to Carjacking

Related offenses can help you compare your case facts by applying alternative approaches. This can help you prepare better defenses or even request leniency based on the legal rules applicable to the related offenses. You also want to learn more about them because the prosecutor may apply multiple charges to your case based on the facts. Some related offenses include:

  • Committing grand theft auto contrary to section 487(d)(1) of the Penal Code
  • Robbery contrary to section 211 of the Penal Code

Contact a Bakersfield Criminal Attorney Near Me

Handling carjacking charges can be draining for you, especially if you do not have a legal team supporting you through the trial. Furthermore, the challenges of acquiring evidence and meeting court deadlines may be too demanding for you. Therefore, working with a criminal defense lawyer is essential to help you understand the best possible defenses to apply in your case.

You will receive high-quality criminal defense services at Koenig Law Office to meet your legal needs sufficiently. Our team understands the importance of building a solid defense and works towards the goal efficiently. With our vast experience helping clients facing carjacking charges in Bakersfield, California, you can trust us to represent you in court. For more information on how to tackle criminal charges, contact us today at 661-793-7222.