Motor vehicle theft is a serious concern for Americans, which has resulted in increased awareness for car safety standards and basic theft retrieval systems. Legally speaking, the crime of carjacking, or forcibly taking another person’s vehicle while they are using it, was made a federal crime after multiple deadly carjackings. In 1992, the federal government upgraded the crime’s punishments to make it follow harsh federal sentencing guidelines in an attempt to add additional criminal deterrence.
Although carjacking is not at all as common as other forms of motor vehicle theft, this method of stealing a person’s vehicle still poses a real threat to drivers on the road. Unlike other forms of theft that generally wait until a car or truck is left unguarded and occasionally unlocked, carjackings can turn violent quickly, as thieves may take drastic measures to prevent their victims from reporting or stopping the event.
One of the main reasons for the additional penalties to carjacking sentences is the potential for violence in the act. While other forms of theft may end in damaged or irretrievable property, carjackings can possibly end in serious injuries or even a murder. According to the Department of Justice, only roughly half of all carjackings are successful, meaning that determined carjackers may attempt more extreme measures in order to secure their stolen property.
As a result of the potential life-threatening dangers of a carjacking, some jurisdictions have even permitted the killing of an aggressive carjacker as a justifiable homicide. Under these laws, which work similarly to the so-called Castle Doctrine, a carjacker threatening the safety and lives of motorists in a vehicle can be killed without criminal charges pressed against those under threat of losing their vehicles.
To learn more about fighting allegations of this crime or another motor vehicle theft crime, contact a criminal attorney.