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Name: People v. Lopez
Case #: B267935
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 02/24/2017

Defendant took vehicle “by means of force” for purposes of carjacking offense where victim physically attempted to prevent theft of vehicle. Prado, a 65-year-old woman, entered a supermarket parking lot and exited her car to move two shopping carts, leaving the door open and the engine running. Lopez climbed into the car, closed the door, and began backing the vehicle away. She held the door shut as Prado attempted to open it from the outside. Lopez sped off after Prado lost her balance and let go. A jury convicted Lopez of carjacking (Pen. Code, § 215, subd. (a)). She appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence that she took the vehicle “by means of force.” Held: Affirmed. Under Penal Code section 215, subdivision (a), carjacking is the “felonious taking of a motor vehicle . . . accomplished by means of force of fear.” Although section 215 does not define “force,” an analogy may be drawn between the carjacking statute and the robbery statute (Pen. Code, § 211), bearing in mind the heightened concern for safety reflected in the carjacking statute. In People v. Burns (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1251, 1259, the court held that the amount of force needed to elevate a theft to a robbery is “such force as is actually sufficient to overcome the victim’s resistance.” Applying the rule from Burns to the offense of carjacking, the court here concluded that a vehicle is taken “by means of force” if the “perpetrator drives the vehicle while a victim holds on or otherwise physically attempts to prevent the theft.” Here, the evidence established that Prado held on and tried to stop defendant as she backed out of the parking space before driving away. Thus, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that defendant took the vehicle “by means of force.”

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: