Man with a gun threatening woman in car

Carjacking vs. Kidnapping

Kidnapping and carjacking have enough in common that many people assume that the court processes, including the bail bonds process, are the same for both.

The similarities are further reinforced by carjackings that involve kidnappings, either as part of the crime or as an additional offense. The California penal code, however, defines these crimes separately. It describes kidnapping as forcibly, or by means of instilling fear, taking someone into another part of the county, or to a different county, state or country. Carjacking is defined as permanently stealing a car while the owner or a passenger is immediately present. The separate definitions lead to differences in how each crime is treated.

Different Bail Rates

One difference is the assumptive bail rates for the different crimes. The starting point for any bail, called the assumptive bail rate, is set by penal code. If a person is accused of only carjacking, the standard bail that a judge will set is $500,000 because that is the assumptive bail for violating penal code 215. If a person is accused of violating penal code 207, which is kidnapping, the standard bail is $100,000.

The penal codes are particular about the details of a crime, and this leads to different bails being set for what might seem like very similar crimes. A carjacking that involves kidnapping someone who is not a principle in the commission of the crime violates penal code 209.5, not penal code 215. The crime is considered an aggravated kidnapping. This means that the accused moved the victim a considerable distance from the scene of the crime and the movement was unnecessary. The assumptive bail in that case will be $500,000.

Kidnapping someone under 14, with the intent to extort money, or with the intent to rape have their own penal codes and assumptive bail rates. By chance, the assumptive rate for all of them is $500,000. The judge does have the discretion to set bail higher if he or she deems the accused a flight risk, the accused has a criminal history, or the crime is particularly violent. The judge is also allowed to let the accused go on their own recognizance and no bail.

Jail Sentences

Each penal code violation carries its own jail sentences as well. Simple kidnapping carries the sentence of 3, 5 or 8 years. Simple carjacking leads to jail sentences of 3, 5 or 9 years. Again, there are subcategories of these crimes under different penal codes which carry different jail sentences. Kidnapping someone who is under age 14 and not related to the kidnapper violates code 208 b., and the accused may serve 5, 8, or 11 years. If a victim dies or is exposed to a risk of death during a kidnap for ransom, that is a violation of code 209 a, and someone convicted of that violation gets life in the state prison with no chance at parole. This is similar to the sentence that applies to a violation of 209 b, which is kidnapping with intent to rob or rape. There is a possibility of parole for the convicted in that case. If a carjacking involves kidnapping beyond what is necessary for stealing the car, the accused faces life in prison.

Defenses

The third difference is in defenses the accused have. The defense against an accusation of carjacking is that the driver gave the accused permission to drive the car. The defense against kidnapping is that the accused didn’t use force or fear, and the alleged victim agreed to move with them. Of course, a person can always make a mistake in identifying the perpetrator, and it is possible the accused was only present at the crime. Those are more general defenses, though.

Knowing the exact penal code a person is accused of violating is an important starting point for understanding how the justice system will deal with the alleged crime. Always be clear on the differences.

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