Theft of a motor vehicle in Florida is a serious crime, but taking someone else’s car by force carries even higher penalties—including the potential for life in prison. If you’re facing felony carjacking charges, you need to know the legal definition and the most commonly used defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney could use to avoid conviction.
What Is Carjacking?
Carjacking occurs when a defendant intentionally and unlawfully takes another person’s motor vehicle by force. Most carjackings involve a weapon such as a firearm, with many of these incidents involving the death of a driver or passenger.
To charge a defendant with carjacking in Florida, a prosecutor must show that the offender:
- Took a motor vehicle that the offender did not own from the person or custody of another
- Had the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the motor vehicle
- Used force, violence, assault, threats, or otherwise put the victim in fear to carry out the theft.
Florida law also allows enhanced sentencing and additional criminal charges for acts occurring during the commission of a carjacking, during an attempt to commit carjacking, or in flight after an attempt or commission of carjacking.
What Are the Penalties for Carjacking in Florida?
Carjacking is both a state and federal offense, but most people in Florida will be charged under the state statute. Even first-time offenders can be charged with a first-degree felony for carjacking, with penalties increasing depending on the facts of the case. The minimum length of time an offender will serve in jail, and the time they will ultimately serve, increases depending on the violence of the crime.
You could be facing significant penalties if convicted of a carjacking involving:
- No weapons or injuries. Carjacking carries a Level 7 offense severity ranking under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code if no weapon was used and no one was injured. If convicted, defendants must serve a minimum prison sentence of 21 months with a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison or probation and $10,000 in fines.
- A weapon. If a weapon such as a knife, crowbar, or blunt instrument is used in the commission of the crime, the penalty is upgraded to a Level 9 offense. A judge is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of 48 months with a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison or probation and $10,000 in fines.
- A firearm. If the defendant was carrying a gun during the commission of a carjacking, they could serve up to life in prison. The charges are also subject to Florida’s 10-20-Life statute, which imposes certain minimums depending on how the firearm was used. An offender possessing a firearm is subject to a minimum 10-year prison term, an offender who discharged a firearm is subject to a minimum 20-year prison term, and an offender who injured or killed someone with a firearm is subject to a minimum 25-year prison term.
You Need a Florida Defense Lawyer With Motor Vehicle Theft Experience
There are many defenses that could be used to refute the charges against you successfully. For example, the forcible taking of a motor vehicle is allowed if you have reason to believe that you are the vehicle’s owner or are otherwise entitled to immediate possession. You may also have the charges reduced to grand theft auto if you took someone’s vehicle as an afterthought to the use of force, not the reason for the use of force.
It’s vital that you don’t attempt to answer these charges without a board-certified criminal trial lawyer by your side. Attorney Robert David Malove handles both carjacking and grand theft motor vehicle charges, and we offer affordable payment plans to make justice accessible to everyone. Contact us online or call us today at 954-861-0384 to have us explain your options in your free consultation.