Law School Case Brief
People v. Lopez - 31 Cal. 4th 1051, 6 Cal. Rptr. 3d 432, 79 P.3d 548 (2003)
Carjacking is defined as the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle of his or her possession, accomplished by means of force or fear.
At gunpoint, defendant Daniel Sapien Lopez ordered the victim, who was sitting in his van, to get out of the van. The victim complied, but before Lopez could leave with the van, the victim retuned to the van. Lopez fled from the van and ran away on foot. However, Lopez left behind his backpack, which contained identification. Lopez was later arrested. After a bench trial in California state court, Lopez was found guilty of multiple felony offenses, including carjacking under Pen. Code, § 215, subd. (a). On Lopez's appeal, the court of appeals affirmed, holding that the actual movement of the motor vehicle was not required to complete the offense of carjacking. On appeal to the state supreme court, Lopez asserted that there was insufficient evidence of a completed carjacking because the vehicle had not been moved.
Was Lopez guilty of carjacking, notwithstanding the fact that he did not gain possession of the victim's van and asport or carry it away?
The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment as to Lopez's and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings. The court analogized the "felonious taking" in § 215 to the same language in Cal. Penal Code § 211, the statute proscribing robbery and noted that the "felonious taking" in the robbery statute required asportation or carrying away of the loot. The carjacking statute was based on the robbery statute but was created to address perceived difficulties with obtaining convictions under the robbery statute. The court held the meaning of "felonious taking" in the robbery statute applied to the carjacking statute. Therefore, as the victim's van was not moved or carried away, Lopez's conduct was punishable only as attempted carjacking.
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