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Carjacking vs. Grand Theft Auto

In the state of California, the crime of carjacking is not to be confused with the criminal offense of grand theft auto. Carjacking and grand theft auto are both theft-related offenses, but are defined differently in the California Penal Code.

CPC § 215 defines carjacking as:

  • A felony
  • A crime that involves taking a motor vehicle away from someone's immediate presence
  • A crime that is committed against the driver/passenger's will
  • A crime committed with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle
  • A crime accomplished by means of force or fear

Anyone who is arrested, charged and convicted of carjacking can be sentenced to a state prison term of three to nine years. In some instances, carjacking can be charged as robbery, since robbery similarly is felonious taking of someone from the immediate presence of a person. However, a person cannot be charged with robbery and carjacking for the same offense.

Grand theft is defined in § 487 of the CPC. This statute defines grand theft as:

  • A felony
  • A crime that involves taking a person's real property
  • Real property taken must exceed $950
  • A crime that is committed against the vehicle owner's will

Grand theft is punishable by a sentence in county jail not exceeding one year. For those convicted of previous vehicle theft offenses, the jail sentence will be greater. As you can tell, the major differences between carjacking and grand theft are the use of force/fear and taking from the driver/passenger's immediate presence.

If you have been arrested for carjacking, grand theft auto or a related theft offense, please don't hesitate to contact an Orange County criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry today for a free evaluation of your case!