The punishment for carjacking in Pennsylvania is up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. It’s clear based on these penalties that carjacking is considered a serious crime. If you’re facing carjacking charges, consider contacting a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania to help you beat or reduce the charge.
How does Pennsylvania Define Carjacking?
Under Pennsylvania law, carjacking is known as robbery of a motor vehicle. Per 18 Pa C.S. § 3702, robbery of a motor vehicle is committed if a person “steals or takes a motor vehicle from another person in the presence of that person or any other person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle.” Essentially, carjacking is physically taking a car from someone else while they are present.
Typically, robbery involves some amount of physical force or threat of force or violence. However, the threat or act of physical force is not necessary for you to be charged with robbery of a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania.
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Potential Punishment for Carjacking in Pennsylvania
Carjacking is a first-degree felony in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is considered worse than other auto theft crimes because of the element of having another person present who could have been harmed in the process.
Per 101 Pa. C.S. § 15.66, First-degree felony charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines not to exceed $25,000. Your exact penalties will vary depending on the circumstances of the carjacking and whether you have prior offenses on your record.
What Other Auto Theft Crimes Could I Be Charged With?
A person who steals a car could be charged with a lesser crime, such as theft of a motor vehicle or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (aka joyriding).
Theft of a Motor Vehicle (Grand Theft Auto)
Theft of a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania is the traditional idea you might have of car theft. There is no specific statute for car theft—instead, it is regulated under “theft by unlawful taking” under 18 Pa C.S. § 3921. Therefore, theft of a motor vehicle is when a person “unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof.”
The idea is that a person stole the car with no intention of ever returning it to the owner. Motor vehicle theft is a felony of the third degree as graded in 18 Pa C.S. § 3903. A third-degree felony is punishable with up to 7 years in prison and a maximum of a $15,000 fine.
Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle (Joyriding)
Joyriding is legally known as unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in the state of Pennsylvania. Per 18 Pa C.S. § 3928, a person is guilty of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle if he or she “operates the automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle of another without consent of the owner.”
Notice here that there is no mention of depriving the owner of their property—only the use of their vehicle without consent. The premise of a joyriding charge is that the offender used the car without permission but was not intending to steal or keep it, as is the case in motor vehicle theft.
Given the much milder nature of the offense, joyriding is a second-degree misdemeanor charge in Pennsylvania. Misdemeanors in the second degree can receive a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison term of up to 2 years.
How does Carjacking Differ from Other Car Crimes?
A carjacking involves the robbery of another person who is physically present at the time. To take the car, someone would have to forcibly remove it from the owner’s possession or threaten to use force. As previously discussed, the use or threat of force is not required to be charged with a carjacking. In a carjacking, there is a greater threat of harm to the person or persons in the vehicle.
Carjacking With Passengers
As can be expected, a carjacking that involves passengers is a far more grievous offense than a routine car robbery. If passengers remain in the vehicle when the car is stolen, the perpetrator could be looking at charges of abduction, which is a first-degree felony.
If a minor child is in the car, it could lead to charges for kidnapping a minor. This, on top of a robbery of a motor vehicle charge, can have significant consequences.
Seek Help from the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC
Robbery of a motor vehicle is no small charge in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you could face harsh prison time. Call the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC to hire a Pennsylvania carjacking lawyer for your defense.
Our criminal defense attorneys may be able to reduce the charges against you or the penalties you face. Call for a free consultation today.