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Carjacking While Armed With a Dangerous Weapon

A conviction for carjacking while armed with a dangerous weapon has severe consequences, including the likelihood of prison time.

Elements of Carjacking while Armed with a Dangerous Weapon

In order to convict a defendant of carjacking while armed with a dangerous weapon, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant intended to steal a motor vehicle;
  2. The defendant assaulted, confined, maimed, or put the alleged victim in fear for the purpose of stealing the motor vehicle; and
  3. The defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon.

A dangerous weapon is any object that could cause serious injury or death. An object that ordinarily is used for innocent purposes becomes a dangerous weapon when a defendant intentionally uses it in a dangerous or potentially dangerous fashion. A pen is a dangerous weapon when it is thrown at somebody's eye.  A baseball bat is a dangerous weapon when it is swung at somebody's head.

There is a lesser included offense of carjacking when the defendant was not armed with a dangerous weapon.

Common Defense Strategies

There are a number of potential defenses that are used in carjacking cases.

  • Defendant’s Intent - It is not legally sufficient for the assistant district attorney to prove only that the defendant was involved in a physical altercation with a driver or passenger of a car. The assistant district attorney must prove the defendant intended to steal the car while assaulting the alleged victim (or placing the alleged victim in fear of being assaulted).
  • Self-Defense - While self-defense is more common in a traditional assault case, it is available as a defense to carjacking. Any person is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself. If a defendant (1) reasonably thought he was being physically attacked or was about to be physically attacked (causing his personal safety to be in immediate danger); (2) tried to avoid a physical altercation before using force himself; and (3) used the minimum amount of force to escape the situation, then the defendant must be found not guilty of carjacking. There is a similar legal privilege to defend another person.
  • Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - Carjacking cases often involve parties who previously knew one another, and the alleged victim often has a criminal record.  Although the alleged victim's previous convictions cannot be introduced to establish he is a bad person, they can be introduced in certain situations to attack his credibility as a witness.  Attorney Spring will also attempt to introduce the alleged victim's prior violent behavior (whether it involves the defendant or not) to establish the identity of the first aggressor. 
  • Bias - In any violent confrontation, including carjackings, the defendant and the alleged victim will dislike one another.  When the alleged victim dislikes the defendant at a criminal trial, it is fair for the defense attorney to argue to the jury that the alleged victim's testimony was impacted by her hostile feelings toward the defendant, and the alleged victim should therefore not be believed. 

The Fifth Amendment Privilege allows some alleged victims to refuse to testify in court.  The Fifth Amendment to the Federal Constitution states a prosecutor cannot force a witness to testify if the testimony might cause the witness to be charged with a crime.  In a carjacking case, if the driver fought back against the alleged carjacker, then the driver has a Fifth Amendment Privilege and can refuse to testify against the defendant. 

A carjacking conviction will probably result in a prison sentence.  If you are charged with carjacking, you should hire an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney like Chris Spring, who has been trying criminal cases in front of juries for his entire career.

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