Carjacking involves the felonious takeover of another person’s motor vehicle, in the immediate presence of the victim, with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive him or her of the property. What differentiates carjacking from robbery is the concept of immediate presence, which is when the victim is near the motor vehicle or an occupant. Most carjacking statutes require a confrontation to occur, in either a physical sense or threatening manner, whereby the victim is close enough to retain possession but is inhibited from doing so by either force or fear.
A federal carjacking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2119, reveals how seriously the U.S. government treats the crime:
Whoever, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm  takes a motor vehicle that has been transported, shipped, or received in interstate or foreign commerce from the person or presence of another by force and violence or by intimidation, or attempts to do so, shall—
(1) be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both,
(2) if serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of this title, including any conduct that, if the conduct occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, would violate section 2241 or 2242 of this title) results, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 25 years, or both, and
(3) if death results, be fined under this title or imprisoned for any number of years up to life, or both, or sentenced to death.
State laws read similarly. For example, Virginia Code § 18.2-58.1 classifies carjacking as a felony punishable by imprisonment for a term ranging from 15 years to life. It defines the crime broadly to include “the intentional seizure or seizure of control of a motor vehicle of another with intent to permanently or temporarily deprive another in possession or control of the vehicle of that possession or control by means of partial strangulation, or suffocation, or by striking or beating, or by other violence to the person, or by assault or otherwise putting a person in fear of serious bodily harm, or by the threat or presenting of firearms, or other deadly weapon or instrumentality whatsoever.”
At the heart of the crime of carjacking, there must be a robbery. In other words, there must be proof of a theft of a car, and all the elements of the theft, combined with the elements of force or intimidation as would constitute a robbery. If there is not technically a “robbery” of the car, then the carjacking does not effectively occur.
To defend this crime, we will therefore examine first whether the prosecution can prove, and whether we can disprove, each of these elements —
- Force or Intimidation. We will attempt to garner any facts that will establish that there was no force or intimidation constituting the actual robbery of the car or otherwise satisfying the statutory elements of a carjacking.
- Proof of Identity. We will attempt to establish that the prosecuting authority cannot prove that you are the actual perpetrator, surely not on the basis of scant evidence shown in the record or in a suggestive lineup.
- Consent. If the suspect knows the victim, we will attempt to explore and exploit the argument that victim gave consent to the suspect to take the vehicle, and only later claimed the vehicle was carjacked.
- Lack of Intent. They may have been no intent to unlawfully take the vehicle. A party may simply drive a vehicle away from one point to another, angrily, or in reaction to a fight with another person, without any intent to take the vehicle away from anybody.
In addition to these affirmative defenses, the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick leverages our skills and expertise to challenge the police investigation in every carjacking case, and to force the prosecutors to turn over all of the evidence as part of the pre-trial discovery process, so that everything is made available for our review prior to going to court. All of this will enable us to offer you the best defense and to search for ways to either have the charges dismissed or, if necessary, to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf.
If you or someone you know has been implicated in a criminal offense, please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.