Different states have varying laws on carjacking. Many people do not understand, however, that this offense can also be charged as a federal crime. When carjacking is prosecuted at the federal level, the prison sentences for those convicted are typically much longer, and the fines are also much higher as compared to those for a conviction at the state level. Fortunately, there are possible defenses to such charges. To understand what they are, you first must understand when carjacking becomes a federal crime and what the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction.

When Is Carjacking Considered a Federal Crime?

Under 18 USC 2119, carjacking is a federal crime when a person takes a motor vehicle that has been transported, shipped, or received in interstate or foreign commerce. Essentially, the vehicle must cross state or country lines for the crime to be considered a federal offense.

The law states that for federal carjacking to have occurred, a vehicle must be taken from someone else by use of force, violence, or intimidation. The statute also includes attempting to use force or intimidation, even if these attempts are unsuccessful. Additionally, under the federal statute, that force or intimidation must be done with the intention of causing death or serious bodily harm.

To secure a conviction for this federal offense, the prosecution must prove all four elements of the alleged offense outlined in the statute. They must prove that you knowingly took the vehicle and that you used force, violence, or intimidation while doing so. The prosecution must also prove that the vehicle was transported, shipped, or received across state or national borders. The last element of proof is that it must be shown that you also intended to cause death or serious bodily harm while you were taking the vehicle from another person.

Possible Defenses to Carjacking

To defend against the federal offense of carjacking, you must make arguments that contradict the prosecution’s proof. The first way to do this is by arguing that the vehicle did not cross state or country lines. If other elements of the crime can be proven, you may still face state carjacking charges, but the penalties for these are typically much less severe than those that come with a federal conviction.

The alleged victim of the crime must also be within the proximity of the car in order for federal carjacking to have occurred. Again, if you stole a car when the owner or alleged victim was not around at the time, you could face other charges, but they will likely not include carjacking.

Lastly, if you did not intend to cause death or serious bodily injury, this can also be used as a defense to carjacking. For example, if you shouted at someone to give you their car and they complied with your demands but got struck and killed by another vehicle shortly after, an attorney can prove that you did not intend to cause their death.

Facing Federal Charges? Call an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

As with any other federal offense, facing carjacking charges is very scary, and very serious. If you have been charged, you need the help of a skilled Chicago federal criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, we know how to prepare a strong defense to get your charges reduced or get your case dismissed so you can retain your freedom. Call us today at 312-270-0999 for your free consultation so we can discuss your case.



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