Penal Code 209.5 PC - Kidnapping During the Commission of a Carjacking

man kidnapped in trunk of a car
Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking is a form of aggravated kidnapping


Penal Code 209.5
 PC is the California law that defines the crime of kidnapping as part of the commission of a carjacking. Specifically, this section states that

"Any person who, during the commission of a carjacking and in order to facilitate the commission of the carjacking, kidnaps another person who is not a principal in the commission of the carjacking shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole."

California's kidnapping laws prohibit two types of kidnapping:

  1. simple kidnapping (Penal Code 207), and
  2. aggravated kidnapping (Penal Code 209).

Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking is a form of aggravated kidnapping, which means that a conviction for this offense subjects you to more severe penalties.  You violate this section when

  1. you move the victim beyond what is merely incidental to the carjacking,
  2. you move the victim a substantial distance from the area of the carjacking, and
  3. the movement of the victim increases the risk of harm over and above that necessary to commit the carjacking.1
Example

If you were to try to carjack someone's car...and ordered the driver to get out so that you could then take the car...you would probably be guilty of carjacking but not kidnapping.  Forcing the driver out of the car would be the type of movement that is merely incidental to the carjacking.

But let's change the facts.  Instead, you only order the driver to move over into the passenger seat and then carjack the car with that person still in the car.  You drive for a while before you order him out of the car.

Given these facts, you would be guilty of kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking.  And you could sustain a separate conviction for this offense for every person who was in the car at the time.

Defenses

Some of the legal defenses that apply to kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking include:

  • you had permission to take the car,
  • the alleged victims consented to the ride,
  • you are the victim of mistaken identity or false allegations, and/or
  • you didn't complete the carjacking and are therefore only subject to the lesser crime of attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking...or perhaps only of kidnapping or carjacking.
Penalties

A conviction for violating Penal Code 290.5 PC subjects you to life in prison with the possibility of parole.2 And because kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking is a "violent felony", you will also get a "strike" on your record under California's three strikes law.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys3 explain Penal Code 209.5 PC by addressing the following:

1. What Constitutes a Kidnapping During the Commission of a Carjacking?
2. Legal Defenses to Penal Code 209.5
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. What Constitutes a Kidnapping During the Commission of a Carjacking?

Although California's kidnapping laws prohibit a wide variety of conduct, they all center on

  1. moving another person,
  2. without that person's consent,
  3. by using "force or fear" (which means using actual physical force upon the alleged victim or threatening physical harm to the victim and/or his/her family).4

These laws encompass two different types of kidnapping: simple kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping.  The main difference between simple kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping...other than the penalties...is the distance that you move the alleged victim.

A simple kidnapping requires that you move the victim a "substantial" distance, not simply an insignificant or trivial one.5 Aggravated kidnapping requires that the movement of the victim "increase the risk of harm beyond that inherent to the underlying crime but does not require that the movement 'substantially' increase the risk of harm to the victim."6

man pointing gun during carjacking
A conviction for violating Penal Code 290.5 PC subjects you to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

It therefore follows that with respect to aggravated kidnapping under Penal Code 209.5 PC...California's law against kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking ...you must move the victim more than the movement that would otherwise be required to complete the carjacking.

More specifically, you violate Penal Code 209.5 PC when

  1. you move the victim beyond what is merely incidental to the carjacking,
  2. you move the victim a substantial distance from the area of the carjacking, and
  3. the movement of the victim increases the risk of harm over and above that necessary to commit the carjacking.7
Example: Defendant approached a man who had just gotten back into his car after filling his car with gas.  The defendant claimed he had a gun, ordered the man to move over into the passenger seat and threatened to kill him if he "tried anything".  The defendant...followed by a car full of his friends...drove for a while before letting the victim out of the car.8

The court held that the defendant was properly convicted of kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking.  By keeping the victim in the car...rather than simply ordering him to get out of the car...the defendant

1) moved the victim beyond what was merely incidental to the carjacking,

2) a substantial distance from the initial location of the carjacking, and

3) increased the harm to the defendant by keeping him against his/her will, driving with him in the car and having his friends follow in the car behind.

It is also important to understand that you may be charged with attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking even if you do not complete the carjacking...an attempted carjacking will suffice.9

Example: The defendant was being chased by the police.  He ran into a parking lot where he saw a man asleep in the driver's seat of a van.  The defendant climbed into the van that was occupied by the driver, the driver's wife and their three kids.  The mother screamed at the defendant to get out of her van and elbowed him to push him out.  The defendant shoved her back and exclaimed "we got to go, we got to go" and tried to start the engine with the keys that were in the car.  The defendant couldn't start the van, move the steering wheel or put the van in gear.  He looked at the driver, said "Oh, damn" and left.

The Supreme Court of California held that the defendant's actions evidenced the fact that he intended to kidnap the family to facilitate a carjacking.  There was no indication he told the family to get out, but rather kept saying "we [italics added] got to go, we got to go."  As a result, he was appropriately convicted of attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking.10

If you are convicted of attempting to violate Penal Code 209.5 PC, you face five, seven or nine years in the California state prison.11

And along these same lines, even if the prosecutor charges you with PC 209.5, the jury could alternatively find you guilty of the lesser crimes of attempted carjacking and/or attempted kidnapping.12 These offenses only subject you to half of the prison time that you would face for the completed crimes which means you would face a maximum 4-year sentence for attempted kidnapping or a maximum 4½ year sentence for attempted carjacking.13

2. Legal Defenses to Penal Code 209.5

Because kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking is a hybrid offense that consists of kidnapping and carjacking, it stands to reason that many of the legal defenses that are applicable to this offense are the same as those we would present in a kidnapping or carjacking case.

man behind bars
If you are convicted of attempting to violate Penal Code 209.5 PC, you face five, seven or nine years in the California state prison

Some of these include:

  • the alleged victim allowed you to drive his/her car, so there was no carjacking,
  • you didn't use force or fear to compel the other person/people to drive with you,
  • the victim consented to be moved, so there was no kidnapping,
  • you were merely present at the time of the offense (which, depending on the circumstances could alternatively result in an "aiding and abetting" or conspiracy charge), and/or
  • you were the victim of mistaken identity or were falsely accused of the crime.

And if you are guilty of violating Penal Code 290.5 PC...but there are some flaws in your case as well as the prosecution's...your California criminal defense lawyer could try to negotiate a plea bargain to one of the lesser charges of

  • kidnapping,
  • attempted kidnapping,
  • carjacking, or
  • attempted carjacking,

all of which carry less severe penalties than Penal Code 290.5 PC, which leads to the next section...

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking is a violent felony. This means that if you are convicted of Penal Code 290.5 PC, you not only face life in prison with the possibility of parole,14 but you will also have a "strike" on your record pursuant to California's three strikes law.  As a three strikes case, a conviction also means that you must serve at least 85% of your sentence before you will be eligible for parole.

And if you are subsequently charged with any felony and have a prior "strike" on your record, you will be referred to as a "second striker," and your sentence will be twice the term otherwise required by law.15

If charged with a third felony, and you have two prior strikes, you will be referred to as a "third striker" and will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years-to-life in California state prison.16

And...depending on the circumstances of the offense...you may also face additional penalties

But as Orange County criminal defense attorney John Murray20 explains, "the good news is that our law firm...comprised of former police investigators and district attorneys...knows the most effective strategies to fight your case so that none of these additional sentencing enhancements ever come into play.  We will do everything in our power to secure your acquittal."

Call us for help...
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Call us for help

If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 209.5 PC kidnapping during a carjacking and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada's kidnapping laws and/or Nevada's carjacking laws.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.21

Legal References:

1 Penal Code 209.5 PC - Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking.  ("(a) Any person who, during the commission of a carjacking and in order to facilitate the commission of the carjacking, kidnaps another person who is not a principal in the commission of the carjacking shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole. (b) This section shall only apply if the movement of the victim is beyond that merely incidental to the commission of the carjacking, the victim is moved a substantial distance from the vicinity of the carjacking, and the movement of the victim increases the risk of harm to the victim over and above that necessarily present in the crime of carjacking itself. (c) In all cases in which probation is granted, the court shall, except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would best be served by a lesser penalty, require as a condition of the probation that the person be confined in the county jail for 12 months. If the court grants probation without requiring the defendant to be confined in the county jail for 12 months, it shall specify its reason or reasons for imposing a lesser penalty.")

2 See same.

3 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

4 California Penal Code 207 PC - California's kidnapping law. 

5 California Jury Instructions, Criminal. CALJIC 9.50 

6 People v. Ortiz (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 410, 415.

7 See Penal Code 209.5 PC, California's law against kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking, endnote 1, above.

8 See People v. Ortiz, endnote 6, above.

9 California Jury Instructions, Criminal "CALJIC" 1204 Kidnapping: During Carjacking.  ("A completed carjacking is not a prerequisite for the crime of attempt to commit a violation of Penal code § 209.5, subdivision (a). It is sufficient if the perpetrator attempts to carjack a vehicle. People v. Medina (2007) 41 Cal.4th 685, 61 Cal.Rptr.3d 677, 161 P.3d 203.")

10 People v. Medina (2007) 41 Cal.4th 685.

11California Penal Code 664 PC -- Attempts; punishment.  

12 People v. Medina (2007) 41 Cal.4th 685, 690.  ("For reasons that follow, we conclude that a completed carjacking is not a prerequisite for an attempt to violate section 209.5(a) [California's law against kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking], and that attempted carjacking and attempted kidnapping are lesser included offenses of an attempt to violate section 209.5(a).")

13 See Penal Code 644, attempts, endnote 11, above.

14 See Penal Code 209.5 PC - Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking, endnote 1, above.

15 California Penal Code 667 -- Habitual criminals; enhancement of sentence; amendment of section -- California Three Strikes law. 

16 See same.

17 Penal Code 12022.7 PC -- California's great bodily injury sentencing enhancement.

18Penal Code 186.22 PC -- California's criminal street gang sentencing enhancement. 

19Penal Code 12022.53 PC -- California's 10-20-life "use a gun and you're done" law.

20 Orange County criminal defense lawyer John Murray represents clients throughout Orange County, including Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Anaheim and Westminster, as well as in the South Bay (including Long Beach and Torrance).

21 Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada's kidnapping or carjacking laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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