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Carjacking Law, Sentence, & 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 or hers

  • 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

PC 215(a): Penalties

PC 215(a) CarjackingCarjacking 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.


PC 664/215(a) 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, which means 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 (not local county jail), and no part of his or her prison sentence may be served out of prison, suspended, or split (part in and part out of custody).

Three Strikes Law: PC 215(a) is considered a serious and violent strike crime under California's Three Strikes Law. Time off any prison sentence for good behavior is limited to fifteen percent (15%) in PC 215(a) cases.

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. Also, Carjacking is considered a crime involving moral turpitude.

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)

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 to Crime.

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. Call today!



Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Carjacking

Code: PC 215(a) (CalCrim No. 1650)

Wobbler: No. PC 401(a) is not a wobbler. This means that PC 215(a) is always charged as a felony.​


Incarceration:Felony PC 215(a) prison sentence range: 3, 5, or 9 years (if probation not granted).

Probation: Probation may be available in PC 215(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

PC 1170(h)): No. PC 215(a) is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.

Strike: PC 215(a) is a strike offense per California's Three Strikes law because this crime is considered a Serious offense (PC 1192.7) and a Violent offense (PC 667.5(c). Strike offenses are subject to reduced good time credits in jail or prison and other penalty enhancements upon subsequent criminal convictions.

Credits: 15% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 215(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: PC 215(a) convictions prohibit defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $250,000 (San Bernardino County)​ [PC215(a)-F]

Carjacking PC 215(a) Criminal defense lawyer attorney sentence punishment penalty jail prison misdemeanor felony Redlands Yucaipa san Bernardino rialto colton fontana rancho Cucamonga Ontario Victorville highland Hesperia loma linda se habla espanol Spanish abogado hs California ca crime penal code

Related Crimes

  • PC 663, 664/215(a) Attempted carjacking

  • PC 211 Robbery

  • PC 664/211, 215/211 Attempted Robbery

  • PC 487(d) Grand Theft Auto

Highland, Upland, Rialto, Yucaipa, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, San Bernardino, Chino, Colton, Loma Linda, Ontario, Fontana, Victorville

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