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Federal Carjacking Charges


Although carjacking is unlawful under both state and federal law, it is often charged in federal court. This can have serious consequences for defendants, as federal sentencing guidelines tend to be much more severe than their state counterparts. For this reason, it is especially important that those who have been accused of carjacking, consult with an experienced federal crimes attorney who can help them formulate a defense.

Carjacking Defined  

When the carjacking statute was first passed, it required a defendant to have used or brandished a firearm during the car theft. This provision was eventually amended, as a result of which, under federal law, a person can now be convicted of carjacking if a prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant knowingly took a motor vehicle by force, violence, or intimidation;
  • The vehicle had previously been transported, received, or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce; and
  • The defendant intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to another at the time he or she took control of the vehicle.

Those who are convicted under the federal carjacking statute face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This is true even when a person only attempted to, but did not complete, a carjacking. However, if serious bodily injury was inflicted on someone during the incident, the sentence can be increased to 25 years. To satisfy the definition of serious bodily injury, the injury must involve a substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, obvious disfigurement, or the loss or impairment of a body part, organ, or mental faculty. If a death results, the defendant faces life imprisonment.

Interstate Commerce 

In order to be convicted of carjacking, a prosecutor must demonstrate that the car in question was transported, shipped, or received in either interstate or foreign commerce. Generally, proof that a vehicle traveled in interstate or foreign commerce at any time is enough to satisfy this requirement. For example, demonstrating that a car was manufactured in one state and then transported to another could qualify as being transported in interstate commerce. However, federal prosecutors are not required to prove that a car was being moved in interstate commerce at the time it was carjacked. Instead, evidence linking the vehicle to interstate or foreign commerce at any time in the past will be considered sufficient to satisfy this element of the carjacking statute.

Possible Defenses 

Fortunately, there are defenses available to those who have been charged with carjacking, including that:

  • The vehicle never crossed state lines or national boundaries;
  • The car was not within the driver’s control at the time that it was taken; and
  • The defendant did not intend to cause injury or death.

To speak with an attorney about these and other possible defenses to a carjacking charge, please contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Contact a Federal Crimes Attorney Today  

A conviction for carjacking could lead to 15 years or more in prison, so it is critical for those who have been charged with this offense to have the support and guidance of an attorney who has experience handling federal crimes. Please call the Miami legal team at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 today to speak with a dedicated criminal defense attorney about your own case. We can also be reached via live chat.


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Miami Criminal Attorneys

9130 South Dadeland Blvd
Miami, Florida 33156

Telephone: 305-670-9919
Fax: 305-670-9299

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