Carjacking have increased 500% in Philadelphia since 2019. Is there a mandatory minimum sentence for crime in Pennsylvania?
Our law firm defends individuals charged with serious crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Philadelphia has experienced an unprecedented rise in gun violence, and along with overall crime, these past couple of years and the number of carjackings has increased along with that number.
Philadelphia is on pace to have a record 1,400 carjackings, a 500% increase since 2019! There were 193 carjackings in 2017, but the number has increased substantially since that time with 409 in 2020, 847 in 2021 and 828 currently in 2022 with over a month remaining in the 2022. In addition to carjacking, theft from unattended vehicles has also increased substantially in Philadelphia with less than 2,000 in 2019 and over 9,000 in 2021!
What is carjacking and what type of criminal charge is it Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania, like New Jersey, maintains carjacking (aka-robbery of motor vehicle) as a serious felony offense. While New Jersey does not classify crimes the same way as Pennsylvania, it is nevertheless an extremely serious charge in both jurisdictions. In Pennsylvania, robbery of a motor vehicle (carjacking) is a felony of the first degree. It is committed when a person steals or takes a motor vehicle from another person in the presence of that person or any persons in lawful possession of the motor vehicle (Title 18, Section 3702).
What are the possible criminal sentences if a person is convicted of carjacking?
A felony of the first degree in Pennsylvania subjects an individual to a maximum 20-years of State prison sentence, but there are no mandatory minimum sentencing laws in Pennsylvania, unlike New Jersey. While Pennsylvania, by statute, allows for enhanced sentencing guidelines (42 Pa CS Section 2154) a Judge is not required to impose mandatory sentencing.
Enhance sentencing guidelines (deadly weapon enhancement) mean that the Judge may take into account criminal history as well as criminal behavior, a specific range of sentence with increase severity or intensity for the offender who possess or use of a deadly weapon or inflict a substantial harm on the individual. Pennsylvania does have a separate sentencing matrix for deadly weapon enhancements, but again, these are not mandatory minimum sentencing, and a sentencing Judge has great discretion in these matters.
How is robbery different from carjacking?
Robbery, unlike carjacking is still defined as a felony crime (Section 3701). The range of a robbery offense can be that of a felony of a third degree to that of a felony of the first degree. The gravity of the incident (forced used in the unlawful taking) will dictate the level of the offense charge. If the individual inflicts serious bodily injury upon another during the course of the robbery it is a felony of the first degree, whereas the person takes the item in question with the least amount of force it is the robbery of the third degree.
Felony Murder, Robbery and Carjacking – Life Sentences
In addition, if a person during the course of a robbery or carjacking causes the death of the victim, the perpetrator will be charged with a felony murder (murder of the second degree) which subjects the Defendant to a mandatory lifelong State prison sentence. With regards to felony murder, the intent of the perpetrator is irrelevant for the purpose of this charge.
Again, if you’re convicted of felony murder in the Commonwealth, you face a mandatory minimum life sentence. It is important to understand that murder of the second degree is otherwise known as felony murder or the “the felony murder rule.” This means that if a person dies during the commission of a felony crime, such as robbery, burglary, aggravated assault or practically anything which rises to the level of felony, the accused can be convicted of felony murder.
There is a difference between murder of the second, first and third degree with regards to the criminality. Murder of the first degree requires premeditation and deliberation (i.e., lying in wait). While murder in the third degree is all the murder and contains an element of recklessness.
Like all criminal offenses, the burden is on the Commonwealth to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While obviously the victim isn’t available in any type of murder trial, the prosecution can establish this burden with circumstantial evidence which would include Coroner’s Reports, videos, medical evidence and eyewitness testimony.
For more information regarding robbery and other serious violent felonies, please keep reading our blog, watch our videos and subscribe to our newsletter.
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