Carjacking is an extremely serious and somewhat complicated crime in the state of Florida. Part of the complicated nature behind carjacking exists because of its close relation to auto theft and other burglary charges. However, this unique crime poses severe consequences in comparison to its criminal relatives.
Southern Florida has a long history of carjacking. Just recently in the news, you may have heard about the following:
- Gregory Moore, the man accused of going on a crime spree that included multiple armed carjackings and shooting two people in West Palm Beach.
- The major bust of a large Miami-based gang on numerous charges, including carjacking.
- The carjacking of two women in Miami by a homeless man in August.
Under Florida law, carjacking means the taking of a motor vehicle from another person using force, violence, or assault, with the intent to permanently or even temporarily deprive the owner. The key here is the portion that says “from another person.” Unlike auto theft or related charges, carjacking involves an occupied vehicle. The use of force or violence must occur during the actual attempt to commit carjacking or afterwards when the carjacker flees the scene. It is also considered a carjacking if someone drugs another person, causing them to become unconscious, with the intent of stealing the car from them once they pass out.
The offense of carjacking is classified as a first-degree felony – one of the most serious classifications in Florida. Consequently, someone facing a carjacking charge could face up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. No matter how many years a judge decides in the sentencing phase of trial, anyone convicted of carjacking will face a minimum jail sentence of 21 months. Remember that Florida's 10-20-Life statute can severely increase the penalties associated with carjacking if a firearm was involved.
The Federal Statute
In addition to the Florida statutes on carjacking, increasing carjacking statistics in the 1990s eventually lead Congress to enact a federal carjacking statute in 1992. The famous case that was widely publicized for causing Congress to enact such a statute involved a mother from Baltimore who was dragged to her death while trying to rescue her young daughter from her car that was carjacked. The federal offense is triggered when the vehicle involved in the carjacking is deemed to be involved in interstate commerce. This can occur not only if the car is driven or otherwise moved outside of the state, but also if the car was manufactured in a state outside of Florida yet then driven on state roadways.
Because carjacking is such a serious crime, it generally leads to a trial. Anyone charged with the offense of carjacking should therefore hire a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after arrest. Despite its severity, it is possible to defend against carjacking charges. If you or someone you know has been arrested on carjacking accusations, contact the experienced West Palm Beach attorneys at Farkas & Crowley immediately to discuss how best to defend yourself.