Carjacking While Armed With a Dangerous Weapon
A conviction for carjacking while armed with a dangerous weapon has serious consequences, including the possibility 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:
- The defendant intended to steal a motor vehicle;
- The defendant assaulted, confined, maimed, or put the alleged victim in fear for the purpose of stealing the motor vehicle; and
- The defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon.
A dangerous weapon is defined as an item that is capable of causing serious injury or death. An item that is normally used for innocent purposes can become a dangerous weapon if it is intentionally used as a weapon in a dangerous or potentially dangerous fashion. For example, a lit cigarette can be a dangerous weapon if used to burn someone and a sharpened pencil can be a dangerous weapon if thrown at someone’s eyes.
There is a lesser included offense of carjacking when the defendant was not armed with a dangerous weapon.Common Defense Strategies
Carjacking cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Defendant’s Intent - It is insufficient for the Commonwealth to prove only that the defendant was involved in a physical altercation with a driver or passenger of a car. The Commonwealth must prove that 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. A defendant is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself. If the defendant (1) reasonably believed he or she was being attacked or was about to be attacked and his or her personal safety was in immediate danger; (2) made every reasonable effort to avoid physical combat before resorting to force; and (3) used no more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances, then the defendant must be found not guilty of carjacking. There is a very similar defense of another person privilege.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible if the defendant is asserting self-defense. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
- Bias - In most carjacking cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the incident or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert his or her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.
Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for carjacking, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.