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Carjacking charges are never to be treated lightly in Arizona, or elsewhere for that matter. These crimes can result in lengthy prison terms in addition to other severe penalties. If you have been accused of carjacking in Phoenix, you can contact the Phoenix Criminal Attorney to guide you through the criminal justice system and defend you for a possible favorable outcome for your case.

An Overview of Carjacking Crimes

When someone takes a car from its owner using force, acts of violence, or threats and intimidation, that person has perpetrated the offense of carjacking. The United States Justice Department defines carjacking as the successful or attempted robbery of an automobile by somebody who is not known to the victim.

This crime is similar to robbery in that the victim has to be there for the offense to happen. However, the object that is taken from the victim is the car itself. To ensure that the vehicle is stolen, the person will often use a weapon that might range from a knife to a gun. Most of these cases end up in bodily injury or death of the victim when certain elements are pushed beyond their normal limits.

Carjacking is typically one of the most serious kinds of auto theft. The risk to the individual or other people in the car's safety is often substantial. The use of force is common in these offenses, and it is possible that everyone involved, even the perpetrator, could be harmed.

These acts could sometimes result in the kidnapping or abduction of the car's occupants. Those who are abducted are fortunate if they're not injured during the events. Carjacking is often followed by further crimes such as rape, murder, aggravated assault, or homicide.

Legal Elements of a Carjacking Offense

Carjacking is a state-level offense as well as a federal offense. This indicates that while each jurisdiction has its own set of rules surrounding carjacking crimes, the federal government could also take legal action against the perpetrators. Even though state carjacking statutes vary, the crime usually features the following:

  • Taking possession of a car,
  • In the presence or possession of someone else,
  • Against the owner's will,
  • To rob them of ownership indefinitely or momentarily, and
  • Using force, fear, or the prospect of imminent physical harm.

Are There Carjacking Charges in Arizona?

Carjacking can be defined as a type of theft whereby the offender takes something valuable, such as an automobile, without the owner's permission. As stated above, carjacking is typically a violent form of vehicle theft due to the employment of force, weapons, or a weapon, or the ejection of the vehicle's operator at a certain point during the commissioning of the crime.

However, the laws surrounding carjacking in Arizona are quite interesting. According to the nonpartisan public official organization, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Arizona does not have any specific laws that govern carjacking crimes. This means that carjacking crimes in Arizona can be pursued under general robbery statutes or any other theft laws depending on the circumstances surrounding the event.

Take this example: a man is arrested by the authorities for purportedly carjacking a man who was leaving his workplace, leading the authorities on a pursuit through Phoenix. He uses the car to go on a robbery spree, and he then crashes the car before stealing another one from someone’s home. He continues to lead the authorities on a chase before he is finally caught and detained.

This perpetrator will very certainly face other counts stemming from his alleged activities, but carjacking won't be among them. What is the reason for this?

As explained, there's no crime under Arizona Criminal Law that particularly addresses "carjacking." The offender, in this case, will very certainly face two counts of "Theft of Means of Transportation," which is prosecuted as a class 3 felony. Theft of means of transportation offense means that a criminal "takes control of someone else's mode of transportation and he or she has the aim of indefinitely robbing the owner of that means of transportation."

While "theft of means of transportation" is evident in this case, the allegation also encompasses some gray aspects that are less so. For example, if an offender keeps a vehicle for a long time — even though the owner of the car gave temporary consent to use it — the offender may face theft of means of transportation charges.

Take a second example, a woman leaves her vehicle with keys in it while her young son waits inside. Someone gets into the vehicle and speeds off. The boy is later found dropped off at a different location.

Will the perpetrator face carjacking, theft of means of transportation, or possible kidnapping charges? The prosecution will look at the facts of the case to bring the case against you since there's no specific offense recognized as carjacking under the Arizona Criminal Law.

Suppose the person approaches the vehicle brandishing a gun and orders the driver to exit, then gets inside the vehicle and drives away. What charges will be brought against him or her? He or she could be charged with armed robbery, theft of a means of transportation, aggravated assault, or kidnapping.

The takeaway here is that, while carjacking isn't a separate, specified offense in Arizona, any chain of actions that satisfy the standard description will almost certainly result in a series of distinct charges under the Criminal Law, the majority being felonies.

Crimes That Can Stem From an Arizona Carjacking Offense

The following are criminal charges that a defendant could be charged with after he or she perpetrates a carjacking offense in Arizona (these charges can cover a wide range of unlawful acts, including robbery and murder, among others):

A Crime Spree

Sometimes an individual or group of people will steal a vehicle while there is an occupant(s) inside and then go ahead to conduct other offenses. The person might also commit further unlawful actions like manslaughter, murder, theft, or even abduction or kidnapping.

While committing the crime, the person may grab a child from his or her parents to use them against the family, like during a hostage scenario or while ransoming the minor for money. If the perpetrator is not apprehended until afterward, the charges might pile up, increasing the likelihood of conviction and sentencing.

When this happens, the prosecutor will bring individual charges depending on the crimes committed during the crime spree.

Armed Robbery

Often, carjackings occur when someone steals a vehicle while using threats against its occupant(s) with a lethal weapon. According to Arizona's criminal code, someone will be found guilty of the crime of armed robbery if they:

  • Conduct a robbery, and
  • Conduct the robbery while armed with a real or simulated lethal weapon, or
  • Conduct the robbery while using a lethal weapon, or making threats of using a lethal weapon, or a simulated lethal weapon

Individuals conduct "robbery" when, while stealing items from the owner's immediate presence, they employ threats to use force or physical force to execute the crime. A "deadly weapon" comprises evident deadly weapons like knives and guns. Other items can also be lethal weapons when they are utilized in a manner that might kill or maim someone or bring them significant harm.

It is important to remember that any "simulated lethal weapon" is an emulation of a deadly weapon. An individual can, for instance, make a mimicked dangerous weapon by concealing his/her hands and imitating the look of a handgun or weapon.

Furthermore, armed robbery does not necessitate that a purported victim feels frightened by the perpetrator's weapon and also that the perpetrator utilizes the weapon to inflict bodily harm. The mere presence of a deadly weapon in the possession of a criminal is enough to establish a crime.

What are the Penalties?

An infringement of this statute is considered a felony. It is a Class 2 felony. The offense is penalized by a term of three to twelve years and six months in prison. Armed robbery is sometimes regarded as a "dangerous offense" in Arizona. If this is the case, the offense is penalized by a sentence of seven to twenty-one years in prison.


The individual who commits carjacking can also execute murder when he or she proceeds to stab, fire at, or batter the owner of the vehicle or any passengers using a weapon. The intention to seize the automobile existed, however, the charges may be reduced had there been no intention of actually murdering the victim.

People can commit first-degree murder, according to Arizona law, when they do the following:

  • Premeditatedly and intentionally took the life of another human being
  • Conducted a felony and then took someone else's life, either while committing the crime of escaping from it. It is referred to as the felony murder law in Arizona
  • Deliberately kill a law enforcement official who is in his or her course of duty

According to Arizona's criminal code, the prosecution must demonstrate that an offender committed the crime intending to understand that she or he would kill, and also that any intent or understanding preceded the murder by a sufficient amount of time to allow for reflection.

In Arizona, first-degree murder is a severe offense. A conviction for first-degree murder leads to felony charges, which is a Class 1 felony. The following penalties apply to the offense:

  • The death penalty
  • Life imprisonment without parole

Theft of Means of Transportation

A carjacker could also be charged with theft of means of transportation under Arizona’s criminal law if all elements of the underlying offense are satisfied. Under this provision of the criminal law, someone commits car or vehicle theft when he or she knowingly executes the following without legal permission:

  • Takes control of someone else's means of transportation or car to deprive that individual of it indefinitely
  • Utilizes a person's car after its owner has given it to the accused for a specific period or under particular conditions (for instance, joyriding)
  • Acquires someone's vehicle through any material misstatement with the purpose to rob the owner of it indefinitely
  • Takes possession of someone else's stolen car and refuses to take reasonable measures to inform the car's rightful owner
  • Assumes the charge of someone else's car while knowing or suspecting that it is a stolen car

According to Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-1801A9, a "means of transportation" simply refers to

any sort of vehicle.


Sometimes, carjackers will conduct kidnappings in addition to stealing the car when they kidnap the driver of the car or any other occupants. This offense usually entails taking someone's freedom and holding them in the car while stealing it. This also happens when the perpetrator has no intention of letting them go free at that moment.

A person conducts a kidnapping offense in the state of Arizona if they willfully constrain another person's mobility and put that victim in fear of imminent physical injury, or any one of the additional conditions stated in the statute. This offense does not require any effort to hide or transfer the victim.

Let us look at some of the distinctive features of Arizona's kidnapping statutes.

Elements of Kidnapping Charges in Arizona

Like with any criminal allegation, the defendant is deemed innocent until proven guilty by the law. To be found guilty, the state must prove to the jury that every one of the below elements is factual beyond a shadow of a doubt:

  • They act with an understanding of their actions.
  • Physical restraining of someone else: Actions that obstruct freedom of movement
  • Intention: Possession of knowledge of wrongdoing
  • The victim has a legitimate fear of bodily harm: The Arizona criminal law outlines several acts that, when combined with the physical restraint of a victim, define kidnapping

Penalty Enhancements and Sentences

In Arizona, any type of kidnapping is considered a felony. Based on the facts, the charges might range from a class 4 felony to a class 2 felony. All kidnapping terms must run in succession, not simultaneously, with other criminal charges.

A Class 4 felony charge is the least serious offense, and it entails a prison sentence of Eighteen to 45 months. It is intended for a suspect who, before doing any more illegal activities or being apprehended, willingly transfers the victim to a secure location.

Kidnapping can swiftly escalate into additional crimes like abuse, assault, ransom kidnapping, as well as murder. When these counts are added together, a defendant accused of carjacking could face substantial lengthy or life-in-prison terms.

Aggravated Assault

Under Arizona’s aggravated assault laws, an offender will be convicted of aggravated assault if:

  • He or she assaults another person
  • The assault is carried out in the presence of specific aggravating elements

Common factors include when an assault occurs and;

  • The assault leads to serious bodily injury to another person.
  • The defendant makes use of a lethal weapon or maybe a potentially lethal item
  • The defendant employs force on the victims that leads to significant deformity or loss or damage of a body component.
  • It occurs after invading a person's residence, and
  • It is perpetrated against a minor under the age of fifteen

Cases of aggravated assault also occur when the attack is conducted against:

  • A peace officer or a member of the law enforcement community
  • Park ranger
  • Firefighter
  • A teacher or a member of the school staff
  • A medical practitioner
  • A prosecuting or defense attorney who is carrying out official duties

What are the Consequences?

Aggravated assault is a severe felony in Arizona. The severity of the punishments will be determined by the details of the matter. The most serious cases of aggravated assault will lead to Class 2 felony charges. Class 2 felonies in Arizona are penalized by a maximum of 5 years in prison if no aggravating conditions are found. The minor cases of this offense will lead to Class 6 felony charges. A Class 6 felony carries a maximum punishment of one-year imprisonment if no aggravating conditions are present.

Multijurisdictional Issues

Carjacking could be combined with another offense or offenses that happen across different state lines. If this occurs, it is common for many courts to get engaged in these matters, which will necessitate the engagement of various state courtrooms due to the cross-jurisdictional issues that arise. Carjacking becomes a major offense when there are multiple cases to contend with, whereas others have similar, lesser, or greater severity based on the acts of the defendant.

Defending Against Carjacking Charges

Sadly, there aren't many simple defenses available for carjacking offenses in Arizona. This is mainly because most carjacking crimes have other additional crimes tied to them. Each of the crimes committed during a carjacking carries separate charges, and each of them has different legal defenses that depend on the factors surrounding the event. A criminal defense attorney can assist you by first attempting to have your charges lowered. This can mean less prison or jail time.

If you are charged with carjacking in Arizona, contact a criminal defense attorney who has experience with these kinds of matters. If your attorney is unable to persuade the prosecutors to dismiss or lower the penalties, the matter will almost certainly go to a jury. If you're found to be guilty of the carjacking counts, the jury will determine your fate.

When the accusations have been made and the case has commenced, your criminal defense lawyer will focus on reducing any potential sentences. Elements that will affect the attorney's efforts are whether the perpetrator is regarded as a minor or if lethal force or a lethal weapon was employed during the commissioning of the crime.

Find a Driving Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

After being accused of carjacking, the first step you should take is contacting a lawyer. Carjacking convictions are serious and can result in lengthy jail sentences because they involve other criminal charges. However, a criminal defense lawyer can assist you in navigating the judicial system and comprehending the consequences of a carjacking allegation. If you require legal counsel in Phoenix, Arizona, you can contact the Phoenix Criminal Attorney. We will fight for your freedom, by ensuring that every legal defense strategy is accessible to you. Call us today at 602-551-8092 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.

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