Carjacking is a form of theft crime that is closely related to the crime of robbery but involves a motor vehicle. The relation stems from carjacking and robbery being considered crimes of a violent nature. These crimes carry significant penalties if convicted.
It is crucial that you work with an experienced attorney to defend yourself and your rights. Here are the defense options our team of former prosecutors at the Bianchi Law Group use when fighting a carjacking charge and what type of strategies we use to protect our clients from these extreme penalties:
How is Carjacking Defined Under New Jersey Law?
Carjacking is defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2.
A person is guilty of carjacking if, in the attempt to commit or in the course of committing an unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, he:
• inflicts bodily injury or uses force upon an occupant or person in possession or control of a motor vehicle;
• threatens an occupant or person in control with, or purposely or knowingly puts an occupant or person in control of the motor vehicle in fear of, immediate bodily injury;
• commits or threatens immediately to commit any crime of the first or second degree; or
• operates or causes said vehicle to be operated with the person in possession or control or was an occupant of the motor vehicle at the time of the taking of the motor vehicle.
An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing an unlawful taking of a motor vehicle” if it occurs during an attempt to commit the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle or during an immediate flight after the attempt or commission.
Knowing what a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt proves helpful when creating defense strategies. For one, the law requires that taking the vehicle is unlawful. This can prove quite important as what is or isn’t unlawful taking of a vehicle can be up for debate. Additionally, the other elements must be proven depending on the manner of the taking.
Before we examine potential defenses, let’s examine the penalties for a carjacking charge.
What Are the Penalties for Carjacking in New Jersey?
One of the defining features of a carjacking crime is its violent nature. As with any violent crime, this results in penalties being much more severe than they would be against a similar but non-violent version of the crime if convicted (motor vehicle theft, in this case).
Under New Jersey law, carjacking is a first-degree indictable crime. Usually, a first-degree crime would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. However, New Jersey has determined that carjacking punishment can fall between 10 to 30 years in state prison.
Additionally, carjacking is one of the crimes included in the No Early Release Act (NERA). This act makes it so that those convicted of certain crimes have to serve 85% of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. For example, if you are convicted of carjacking and get 30 years in prison, NERA requires at least that you serve 25.5 years before being eligible for release on parole.
What are Potential Defense Options Against a Carjacking Charge in New Jersey?
Several potential defense options may be available to fight or mitigate a carjacking charge. Many potential defenses will look to argue that the taking was lawful or not violent.
Potential defenses against a carjacking charge include:
• Showing the court that the taking of the vehicle was not unlawful.
• Proving to the court that the car was yours and that you had every right to take it.
• Proving that it is a case of mistaken identity using providing an alibi.
• Showing that there was no fear, force, or threat used in taking the vehicle.
• The owner of the vehicle permitted you to take the vehicle without the use of fear.
• Showing that no other individual was around when the car was taken.
• Presenting a mitigation package to show the Prosecutor or the Court who the defendant is to seek leniency through a plea agreement or sentencing argument.
I’ve Been Charged with Carjacking. What Should I Do?
If you’ve been charged with carjacking, you need to act immediately. Call our criminal defense lawyers at the Bianchi Law Group and speak with one of our experienced attorneys. They’ll listen to your situation and be able to offer personalized advice on what steps to take. Our team approach and proven strategies have landed us as top industry professionals. Our team is exclusively made up of former prosecutors and is led by two certified criminal trial attorneys by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Our tactics are proven and designed to beat or mitigate your charge. We will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome while protecting your rights.
Don’t wait until it is too late. Call the Bianchi Law Group today!