Carjacking is a form of auto theft that can carry stiff penalties depending on how the crime is committed.
It’s also a crime that can be charged on both the state and federal level, meaning defendants must hire a federal criminal defense attorney for complete representation.
The difference in the crimes is very minor and those carrying out a carjacking probably wouldn’t even realize they were committing a crime that is a federal offense until they learn that the penalties are widely different.
What is the Definition of Carjacking?
Carjacking is the crime of stealing a car from a driver by using the threat of bodily injury to get them to give up their vehicle.
It does not matter who owns the car or whether the person in possession of the car at the time is in the car or out of it.
If a thief takes the vehicle by force using or threatening violence, it is considered carjacking.
Carjacking is usually a state offense; however, if it meets certain stipulations, it can be elevated to a federal offense that carries a more significant penalty upon conviction and needs the assistance of a federal defense attorney.
What Elevates Carjacking to A Federal Offense?
Carjacking is elevated from a state crime to a federal one when it involves the theft of a vehicle that was either “transported, shipped, or received in interstate or foreign commerce” by the owner of the vehicle, according to federal law.
In simpler terms, it means that if a person commits carjacking and the car they steal was driven, delivered, or sold across state lines, it is considered a federal offense and can be prosecuted in a federal court.
Since it’s very common for drivers to cross state lines in their vehicles, many carjackings end up elevated to the federal level.
What Are the Penalties for Carjacking?
Because each state has its own laws and penalties for carjacking, those convicted could face fines up to $10,000 or more, probation, and prison sentences of varying lengths up to 15 years depending on the details of the event.
When someone is hurt in the carjacking or if the carjacker uses a deadly weapon, penalties can rise significantly.
On the federal level, the penalties are much harsher and federal criminal defense lawyers warn that a conviction of federal carjacking can bring fines of up to $250,000 and jail time of 15 to 25 years.
If someone is killed during the incident, whether the vehicle owner or driver, a passenger, or even someone unrelated to the theft like someone hit by the car that was carjacked, those convicted could be sentenced to life in prison or even the death penalty.
Federal Carjacking - A Serious Crime with Serious Penalties
Stealing someone’s car using force or violence to do it or even threatening violence, is a serious offense no matter where it happens.
When it happens across state lines, those charged with this crime will need the representation of a skilled federal criminal defense attorney as the case will be heard in federal court.
Penalties at the federal level can be severe.
Considering how easy it is for any carjacking to unknowingly become a federal offense, anyone even remotely considering this act should think twice.
Carjacking is a theft of personal property that can permanently change the lives of the carjacker as well as the victims!
Reynaldo Garza, III - Attorney at Law
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520