Carjacking has a minimum term of three years, a presumed or mid-term sentence of five years and a maximum term of nine years, plus a maximum of $10,000 fine. There are ways to lower this, but it remains a hugely serious offense and is a strike offense, meaning you will serve a minimum of 85% of the term if ordered to state prison (it is not a jail sentence).
There are things you can do to reduce the sentence. Defenses to carjacking usually start with whether force or fear was used by defendant. If one “wins” on this issue, however, it does not result is dismissal of the case. The case is thus grand theft auto, not carjacking. This can save defendant many years in prison.
Consent is the second most common defense, but this is difficult to prove if the owner is threatened or is injured during the theft. However, when there are no visible injuries and no valid party witnesses, this is often assorted as a defense.
As to sentence, if someone is injured, three to six more years can be added. If the theft was for the benefit of a criminal street gang, a fifteen year to life enhancement can be added under Penal Code § 186.22. If a gun is used, ten years can be added (Penal Code § 12022.53). If the gun is fired, twenty years can be added. If someone is killed or seriously injured by the gun, twenty-five years to life can be added.
Separately, carjacking is a strike offense under California’s “Three Strikes” law (California Penal Code §§ 667.6(b) to (j) and 1170.12). If you already have a strike or two strikes on your criminal record, the sentence is further enhanced. If you have one strike, your sentence is usually doubled (§ 667.6(e)(1)) and you have two strikes, the sentence is usually an indeterminate term of twenty five years to life (§ 667.6(e)(2)(A)(i) – (iii)).