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Is Carjacking Different than Auto Theft?

May 27, 2020

By Van Der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin

In early March, the Bethlehem police were asking for the public’s help in finding a suspect that had carjacked an SUV. While the owner of the vehicle was driving the SUV, another car pulled up alongside it and someone approached the driver’s side window. The person at the driver’s side window showed the driver a gun and demanded that the women get out of the SUV.

While police continue to search for the suspects, it is an interesting story, as it highlights the difference between carjacking and auto theft. The difference between these two crimes, as well as the penalties associated with carjacking, are below.

Differences Between Carjacking and Auto Theft

There are two main differences between carjacking and auto theft. Auto theft occurs when someone steals another person’s vehicle. When carjacking occurs, however, a vehicle is still stolen but the owner is present, and typically force or the threat of force is used in the commission of the crime.

Carjacking can also occur when a person believes they have permission to take a vehicle, but the owner is present and disagrees. When the individual that wrongfully believes they have permission to take the car does so, they can be charged with carjacking.

Consequences of a Carjacking Conviction

The penalties associated with a carjacking conviction are quite harsh. Even without a prior conviction, a conviction can carry up to ten years in prison and high fines. The court will also take into consideration whether the victim sustained bodily injury. If they did, the penalties levied are going to be much more serious than if the offense did not involve bodily injury, even if a threat was used to steal the vehicle.

Other offenses may also be charged in connection with the carjacking including theft, unauthorized use of a motorized vehicle, receiving stolen property, and assault. When these additional charges are laid, and a person is convicted of them, they may face thousands of dollars in fines, as well as long jail times and probation periods.

Prior convictions will also increase these penalties. If the accused has a prior conviction, the penalty they could receive for carjacking can include more than 50 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Due to Pennsylvania’s three strike rule, if it is a person’s third offense, they may face up to a lifetime in prison.

Like any other criminal conviction, a conviction for carjacking and other associated offenses will result in a permanent criminal record. This can prevent a person from obtaining employment, housing, and even academic opportunities, such as a scholarship.

Charged with Carjacking? Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys can Help

Carjacking is taken very seriously in Pennsylvania. If you have been charged with this offense, it is important that you speak to our Allentown criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim. We know the serious consequences associated with a carjacking conviction, and we also know how to build a solid defense so you do not face them. When facing charges, call us at (215) 486-0123 to speak to one of our attorneys.



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