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Carjacking Laws & Defense

PC 215(a)

Information on the crime of carjacking is found at California penal code section 215(a).

PC 215(a) Law (Abbr.)

PC 215(a): 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.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of carjacking, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:

  • Took a motor vehicle that was not his
  • Took the vehicle in the presence of a person who possessed the vehicle
  • Took the vehicle against that person’s will
  • Used force or fear, such as threats of bodily harm, to take the vehicle, or to stop the person from resisting
  • When the defendant used force or fear to take the vehicle he intended to not return the vehicle

Sentence for PC 215(a): Carjacking:

Prison Sentence: Carjacking is charged as a felony. If the defendant is found guilty of the crime of carjacking he or she could face up to nine years in prison.

Attempted Carjacking: If the defendant is found guilty of attempted carjacking (PC 664/215(a)), he or she could face up to four and a half years in prison.

Probation Sentence: Probation is period of supervision instead of Prison. Probation sentences come with probation terms that must be followed to avoid further punishment, including actual prison. Probation for felony carjacking convictions is called formal probation where the defendant is monitored by a probation officer. Probation sentences are available in PC 215(a) cases, but every case is decided on a case by case basis. Whether or not a probation sentence is available in a carjacking case depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

Suspended Prison Sentence: The crime of carjacking does not qualify for suspended prison sentences (also called joint suspension), or split prison sentences. This means that if the defendant is found guilty of PC 215(a) the defendant must serve either a probation sentence (see above) or an actual prison sentence, and no part of his or her prison sentence may be served out of prison (PC 1170(h)).

Three Strikes Law: PC 215(a) is considered a serious and violent strike crime under California's Three Strikes Law. Credit for good behavior while in prison is up to fifteen percent (15%) off the defendant's prison sentence.

Immigration Consequences: Criminal convictions, including a conviction for carjacking, may lead to severe immigration consequences for non U.S. citizens, including deportation or denial of reentry into the United States.

Note: Carjacking is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. For more information on immigration consequences for criminal convictions, or further information on moral turpitude crimes, see immigration consequences.

In addition to a possible jail or prison sentence, a criminal conviction for carjacking can lead to other consequences, including: penalty fines and fees, probation or parole terms, civil lawsuits, employment loss, restraining orders, victim restitution, and more.

Defenses to PC 215(a): Carjacking

Common defenses to PC 215(a) charges include: Statute of limitations, mistake of fact, claim of right, necessity, intoxication, insanity, insufficient evidence, illegal search and seizure, coerced confessions, and more.

For more information on defenses, including defenses to the crime of carjacking (PC 215(a), please visit defenses.

If you are charged with carjacking, or PC 215(a), contact our criminal defense lawyers today to learn your rights and defense options without delay. Our criminal lawyers have successfully defended hundreds of misdemeanor and felony charges, including the criminal charge of carjacking. Call today! 


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Crimes Related to Carjacking (PC 215(a))

Carjacking Law & Defense / PC 215(a), & PC215(a)-F


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