A dispute between two men in the Westlake District of Los Angeles turned deadly earlier this month when a man was run over with his own truck. The two men were reportedly arguing over a parking space when one man carjacked the victim’s pickup truck. After shifting the truck into drive he ran over the 54-year-old victim and fled the scene. The carjacker, identified as 36-year-old Mitchell Castillo, was found by police in the San Fernando Valley in possession of the stolen truck. Castillo may be facing criminal charges for carjacking and felony murder for the death of the pickup truck owner.
What is Carjacking?
Carjacking is the crime of taking another person’s vehicle from their immediate presence using force or fear. The crime is specifically defined in Penal Code 215 PC to be:
- Taking a vehicle in the possession of another;
- From his or her immediate presence;
- Against his or her will;
- With the intent to deprive that person of possession, either temporarily or permanently;
- Using force or fear.
In the Westlake District case, Castillo is facing criminal charges for carjacking because he used force during a struggle to take take the pickup truck belonging to the victim against his will. The fact that he drove the pickup truck from the scene of the carjacking is sufficient to satisfy the “intent to deprive” element of the crime.
The pickup truck owner was killed when Castillo ran over the man with the pickup truck. Since the victim was killed while Castillo was committing a felony, Castillo may face additional charges for felony murder. California’s felony murder rule states that any deaths that occur during the commission of a felony or are related to a felony will automatically be charged as first degree murder. This includes accidental and unintentional deaths and is true regardless of the intent of the person committing the underlying felony offense.
There are no details about whether Castillo intended to run over and kill the victim. However, since the victim died while Castillo was committing a felony crime, he can be charged with first degree murder for the man’s death. So, even if Castillo did not intend to run over or kill the man, he will likely be facing significant time in prison for his actions.
Consequences of Carjacking and First Degree Murder
Carjacking and first degree murder are both felony offenses in Los Angeles. Each of these crimes carry a distinct set of criminal penalties. If Castillo is charged and convicted of both crimes he will face serious time behind bars.
Carjacking is a felony in Los Angeles. When the crime is committed without aggravating factors it is punishable by 3, 5, or 9 years in prison and up to $10,000 in criminal fines. When aggravating factors are present, the term of imprisonment can be extended. Aggravating factors in a crime of carjacking may include:
- Causing Great Bodily Harm: an additional 3-6 years in prison;
- Street Gang Activity: an additional 15 years to life in prison;
- Using a Gun: an additional 10 years in prison;
- Firing a Gun: an additional 15 years in prison:
- Seriously Injuring or Killing Another Person: an additional 25 years to life in prison.
First Degree Felony Murder
Deaths related to the commission of a felony are charged as first degree murder. First degree murder is a felony, punishable by:
- 25 years to life in prison;
- Life in prison without the possibility of parole; or
- The death penalty.
Fighting Carjacking and Felony Murder Charges
Castillo will have the opportunity to defend himself against any criminal charges he faces. His chances of securing the best possible outcome in his case will increase tremendously if he hires a criminal defense attorney. His attorney will review the facts of the case, investigate the incident, and determine the best arguments to assert on Castillo’s behalf. These arguments will be used to explain, justify, and/or excuse Castillo’s alleged behavior. Defenses to carjacking may include:
- False accusation or mistaken identity;
- Permission of the vehicle’s owner;
- No intent to deprive the owner of their property; or
- No use of force or fear.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges for carjacking in Los Angeles do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help. We understand that your future is on the line and will fight to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Early intervention in your criminal case is important, so call us today to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case, explain your rights, and answer the questions you have.