Vehicular hijacking is a serious offense in Illinois, and comes with a potential punishment of four to fifteen years imprisonment. In some circumstances, this type of crime is considered aggravated, which is punishable by a minimum of six to a maximum of thirty years in prison. Additionally, some auto hijacking offenses can carry sentence enhancements which include the possibility of life in prison.
Understandingly, if you have been charged with a crime, this process and the potential punishments can be frightening. In addition to prison time, those convicted of this crime may face a potentially extended parole period, a lifetime criminal record, and the inability to find suitable employment. These cases are often complex and will involve an analysis of intent, control, and force. Those facing charges such as these will require the assistance of a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney with the experience and knowledge necessary to fight this serious charge to the fullest extent.Aggressive Defense Against Vehicular Hijacking Charges
Chicago-based defense attorney David L. Freidberg has decades of experience representing those accused of all forms of auto hijacking. The experienced and knowledgeable legal team at The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg offers effective, professional, and zealous representation against all criminal charges. Our law firm has successfully obtained acquittals for clients accused of hijacking a motor vehicle, negotiated favorable plea deals involving no jail time, and had charges dismissed early on for lack of evidence. When your future and freedom are at stake, The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg is there to assist you in obtaining the best possible legal outcome.Key Elements to Consider For Your Defense
The crime of vehicular hijacking is set out in 720 ILCS 5/18-3. Under this provision, a person commits the felony crime of auto hijacking when he or she knowingly:
- Takes a motor vehicle;
- From the person; or
- Immediate presence of another;
- By use of force; or
- By threatening the imminent use of force.
There are several key elements to this offense that are important to consider. First, the prosecution must establish that the defendant took a motor vehicle. This implies the vehicle must be driven or moved away. The vehicle must be taken either directly from a person or from the immediate presence of another. Immediate presence is a legal concept that has been subject to much interpretation in Illinois courts. Generally, immediate presence will require that the victim be close enough to the vehicle that it is sufficiently under his or her control, such that had the vehicular hijacker not used or threatened force, the victim could have prevented the taking. Proximity of control is more important than the vehicle being within eyesight of the victim.
Once immediate presence has been established, the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used or threatened to use force. The court will analyze the level of force exerted or threatened to determine whether it meets the requirements of the statute. Lastly, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant possessed the requisite intent to commit the crime; meaning, that he or she acted with knowledge.
Aggravated Hijacking Charges in Illinois Defined
The crime of aggravated vehicular hijacking is set out in 720 ILCS 5/18-4. Under this statute, a person commits the crime of aggravated auto hijacking when:
(a) He or she commits auto hijacking, as set out in 720 ILCS 5/18-3, and:
- The person from whose immediate presence the motor vehicle is taken is physically handicapped or 60 years or older; or
- A person under 16 years old is a passenger in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense; or
- He or she carries on or about his or her person, or is otherwise armed with a dangerous weapon, other than a firearm; or
- He or she carries on or about his or her person or is otherwise armed with a firearm; or
- He or she, during the commission of the offense, discharges a firearm; or
- He or she, during commission of the offense, discharges a firearm that is the proximate cause of great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability, or death of another person.
Car hijacking is a Class 1 felony, which as noted above, is punishable by four to fifteen years in prison. Probation is not available to those convicted of this offense pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3(c)2.
While automobile hijacking carries serious penalties, those charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking face the potential of much longer prison terms. Car hijacking in violation of subsections (a)(1) or (a)(2) is a Class X felony, punishable by six to thirty years in prison. A violation of subsections (a)(3) is also a Class X felony, but carries a minimum term of seven years in prison.
A violation of subsections (a)(4) is a Class X felony for which 15 additional years of imprisonment will be imposed by the court. A violation of subsections (a)(5) is a Class X felony for which 20 years shall be added to the term of imprisonment. Finally, a violation of subsections (a)(6) is a Class X felony for which 25 years or up to a term of natural life shall be added to the term of imprisonment imposed by the court.
In addition to lengthy prison terms, a conviction of vehicular or aggravated vehicular hijacking will cause a felony conviction to become part of your permanent record. This record will be accessible by employers nationwide and could severely impact your ability to find employment or qualify for certain career opportunities.Effective Defenses Against Auto Hijacking
Your best defense against the charge of auto hijacking will depend largely on the individual circumstances surrounding the offense. Some common defenses that can prove effective include:
- Mistaken identity: Many vehicular hijackers will wear masks to disguise themselves, and an auto hijacking is often so quick and stress-filled that victims and witnesses do not get a good look at the perpetrator. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense, which can be difficult in these types of cases.
- Consent: You cannot be convicted of vehicular hijacking if the alleged victim in fact consented to your use of the vehicle. Sometimes, the alleged victim will grant the defendant permission, then an altercation occurs and he or she accuses the defendant of taking the vehicle without permission. A well-mounted defense can defeat these charges.
- Challenging the elements: As discussed above, to obtain a conviction for hijacking, the prosecution must prove each and every element set out in the statute. Immediate presence, the use of force, and the taking can all be successfully challenged depending upon the circumstances of the offense.
If you have been charged with the serious crime of vehicular or aggravated vehicular hijacking, you need the best defense available in the state of Illinois. Chicago-based defense attorney David L. Freidberg has provided the highest quality of criminal defense to individuals charged with the crime of hijacking for almost 20 years. The experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg have an unmatched understanding of the intricate defenses available to the charge of hijacking. Our attorney team will zealously seek to obtain the best legal outcome for our clients facing vehicular hijacking and similar serious charges. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist in your defense. Call us today at (312) 560-7100 or email us to schedule your free consultation today.