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About Los Angeles Criminal Law Center

Los Angeles Criminal Law Center is sponsored by The Rodriguez Law Group, a criminal defense firm serving Los Angeles, CA and the surrounding areas. The Rodriguez Law Group was founded by Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with over 18 years experience. During his time as a prosecutor, Mr. Rodriguez handled serious criminal matters including sex crimes and death penalty cases. The information on this site is intended to assist anyone going through the criminal justice process.

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:

  1. Taking a vehicle in the possession of another;
  2. From his or her immediate presence;
  3. Against his or her will;
  4. With the intent to deprive that person of possession, either temporarily or permanently;
  5. 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.

Lady Justice

Have you recently been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles? You should not hesitate to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. There are thousands of criminal defense attorneys to choose from…so how can you know which one is right for you? Most criminal lawyers offer a free consultation, which can be a great way to learn about an attorney and determine if they best suited to handle your case. We have compiled a list of seven questions that you need to ask when you hiring a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles.

How long have you been practicing law?

Some attorneys will have been practicing law for decades, while others will be fresh out of law school and just getting used to the job. Some clients may be more comfortable hiring an experienced attorney who has established relationships with judges, prosecutors, and investigators and has proven to be a successful advocate in the past.

Other clients may want to invest their hope and future in a younger attorney who is full of energy and has a limited number of cases. The experience an attorney has will generally be reflected in their legal fees. A more experienced attorney may charge a higher rate than an attorney who is still making a name for himself or herself.

How long have you been a criminal defense attorney?

Just because an attorney has been practicing law for years does not necessarily mean that they have spent their entire careers in criminal defense. Many attorneys begin working in different fields as prosecutors, corporate lawyers, and personal injury lawyers, and then transition to criminal defense later in their careers.

If you would prefer to hire a lawyer who has years of experience working as a criminal defense attorney, it is important to ask specific questions about their legal background.

How many jury trials have you handled?

If you think that your case may go to trial it is important to know if your attorney has any trial experience. You may find that many attorneys lack significant experience working in front of a jury.

This is because the majority of misdemeanor cases – and many felony cases – conclude before the set trial date. However, some attorneys will have a significant amount of jury experience and success, which can be comforting when you are not inclined to take a plea bargain.

How many jury trials have you won?

One of the best ways to get the state prosecutor to the negotiating table is by hiring an attorney they don’t want to see in court. When you hire an attorney who has established a track record of success in the courtroom, a prosecutor will be more inclined to negotiate the charges (and penalties) in your case.

How many cases have you handled in front of the judge in my case?

When charges are formally filed against you a specific judge will be assigned to your case. Some attorneys have better relationships and experiences with some judges, rather than others. Find out if the attorney you’re speaking with has direct experience arguing before the judge that is assigned to your case.

Who else in your office will be working on my case?

You may feel entirely confident putting your future in the hands of the attorney you meet with. However, many law firms use secretaries, paralegals, and less-experienced attorneys to handle a large percentage of the cases they handle. You may not want your attorney to pass off your case to someone you don’t know and trust.

If the attorney you meet with routinely delegates work to others, you may want to consider a smaller firm. At a smaller firm, more of the work will generally be done by the attorney you meet with and a very small staff. You will have to gauge what kind of situation you will be comfortable with.

Do you have any experience handling cases like mine?

Many criminal defense attorneys are comfortable handling a specific type of criminal case. Some attorneys may specialize in cases involving domestic violence, while others will routinely handle cases involving driving under the influence (DUI). Ask the attorney you meet with about any prior experience they have dealing with cases like yours. The more experience they have handling your specific type of criminal case, the better equipped they will be to help you.

Are you facing criminal charges in Los Angeles? Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center today for immediate legal assistance. Our legal team, led by criminal defense attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez, has more than 18 years of experience handling complex criminal matters. We will intervene early on in the criminal proceedings and fight to get the charges in your case reduced or dismissed. When you call, we will review your case, explain your rights, and answer any of the questions you may have.