Law School Help: California Criminal – Carjacking

I’m guessing a lot of you know what carjacking is — namely, the stealing of a car from another’s possession. I might be wrong, but I think carjacking started happening in the 1980s or so in California when those wanting to steal a vehicle realized that stealing a parked vehicle with no keys was rather difficult. Stealing a vehicle that had been unlocked and started by the owner was much easier and all the thief had to do was threaten the owner. Anyway, in California, the criminal offense of carjacking is defined in California Penal Code section 215(a) which states: “‘Carjacking’ is 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.” Clearly this is a mouthful, but if you break it down, the basic elements of a carjacking are: the taking by means of force or fear of a motor vehicle that is in the possession of another, including a passenger of the motor vehicle from the person or the immediate presence of that other, against the will of the possessor with the intent to deprive the possessor of their possession of said vehicle Each of these elements could, in theory, be the source of disagreement between the prosecution and the defense. For instance, the prosecution might say the vehicle...

False Imprisonment in California Torts

This post continues our tour through California tort law. Last time, I went over civil battery which is basically the defendant causing or committing some sort of harmful or offensive contact on the plaintiff without consent and resulting in injury. I’ve also blogged about battery as a criminal offense in California. This time, we’re going to go over false imprisonment which, unfortunately, can have several different definitions and criteria depending on the facts of the situation. The simplest definition is, in essence, that false imprisonment is when a defendant acts without lawful authority and restricts a plaintiff’s freedom of movement for some appreciable amount of time.  Scofield v. Critical Air Medicine, Inc. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 990, 1006. Defendant locking plaintiff in a room against plaintiff’s will, for instance, would qualify. Incidentally, false imprisonment is also a crime in California under California Penal Code section 236. The criminal definition and the simplest civil definition are identical. The civil definition gets more nuanced if you add in facts such as (1) was the imprisonment due to an arrest or not? (2) if there was an arrest, was it by a California Peace Officer or not? (3) if there was an arrest, was it with a warrant or not? If you’re interested, California defines the term “peace officer” in California Penal Code section 830. Given that some of these permutations don’t make sense (e.g. a private citizen won’t arrest you with a warrant, etc), there’s only three realistic possibilities: #1 – With Arrest by a Peace Officer With a Warrant If an officer has a warrant for your arrest, it does not...

Criminal Battery in California

In a previous post, I described the offense of civil battery in California. This post is about how battery is treated under California criminal law. To remind you, the end result of criminal law is the defendant undergoes some form of incarceration (e.g. jail time, probation, etc) while the end result in civil law is to obtain a money judgment or injunctive relief of some kind for the injured plaintiff. Regardless of whether you look at it under civil law or criminal law, a battery is — in essence — the defendant hitting the plaintiff in some way. Civilly, this is phrased as a harmful or offensive touching by the defendant against the plaintiff resulting in injury. California defines criminal battery in California Penal Code section 242 as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” (I encourage you to actually look up section 242 as it is surprisingly short. That quote above is, literally, all it says.) The potential sentence for battery is described in California Penal Code section 243(a) which is, unfortunately, much longer and a more difficult read than section 242. The sentence for battery depends, at a minimum, on who the victim is (e.g. spouse, police officer, etc) and how serious the resulting injury is. Criminal sentencing in general and California in particular can be confusing and complicated. As always, if you have any doubt about your particular situation, consult an...

Civil Battery in California Torts

A “tort” is, generally speaking, something that would allow a victim to sue the offender for money. This is different, obviously, from a “crime” in which the relief sought is not money, but rather incarceration. Incarceration can refer to many different things — community service, probation, etc — and not just time served in jail or prison. One of the first torts I learned about in law school was battery followed very quickly by assault. If your law school experience was like mine, then you learned that a civil battery is a “harmful or offensive touching”. A touching could, in theory, be any sort of contact the defendant makes with the plaintiff’s person or something connected to the plaintiff (e.g. something the plaintiff is holding in his hand). A typical defense to a battery cause of action might be the Crowded World Doctrine, for example. The Crowded World Doctrine basically says that the world is full of people so some amount of physical contact — imagine riding a crowded subway train — with other people is an inevitable part of daily life. This definition, however, is theoretical and terribly useful in the real world if you have actually been involved in a civil battery. A more useful definition would be one that, for instance, lists out the various criteria for civil battery. If you fulfill the listed criteria, then you as a plaintiff have made a case for civil battery. Whether you prevail, of course, depends on what defenses the defendant can raise and prove. In California, the elements of a cause of action for civil battery are as...

Law School Help: What is Consideration?

Lawyers often toss around the term “consideration” when discussing the existence or lack of a contract. Consideration is one of the criteria that has to be proven in order to show that a contract exists. In California, consideration is defined in Civil Code section 1605 which states: “Any benefit conferred, or agreed to be conferred, upon the promisor, by any other person, to which the promisor is not lawfully entitled, or any prejudice suffered, or agreed to be suffered, by such person, other than such as he is at the time of consent lawfully bound to suffer, as an inducement to the promisor, is a good consideration for a promise.” As you can perhaps tell, consideration is not something that lends itself to a neat or simple definition. Consideration can take many forms. The common idea behind all of these forms, however, is that the purpose of consideration is to show that a party to a contract has voluntarily assumed the obligation imposed on them by the contract. Thought of another way, consideration prevents a person from accidentally falling in to a contract and being obligated to do something they didn’t intend. Numerous other requirements for consideration are imposed by sections 1606 to 1615 (or so) of the California Civil Code as well. In case you’re wondering, the other required elements of a contract are: (1) parties capable of entering in to a contract, (2) the consent of said parties to enter in to the contract, and (3) a lawful goal or purpose to the contract. See California Civil Code section 1550. Depending on the facts of the particular...

Law School Help: What is a Common Carrier?

One of the things that makes the law unnecessarily confusing for non-lawyers (and lawyers too, let’s be honest) is specialized terminology. This isn’t unique to the law, of course. Many industries and specialties have their own terms and vernacular that makes perfect sense to those in the field, but leaves everyone else scratching their head. In a small, small, small, small, small effort to remedy that for the law, I’m going to explain in this blog post what the legal term “common carrier” means. This post will be specific to California, which means, as usual, that you have to look it up yourself for other states. The term common carrier appeared for me in law school in my torts class. If you happen to be encountering it in your law school torts class now and have no idea what it means, this post is for you. Regardless of whether your professors are explaining the concept, very few professors actually connect the concept to a specific authority in California like I am about to. In California, “Common Carrier” is defined in Civil Code section 2168 which states: “Every one who offers to the public to carry persons, property, or messages, excepting only telegraphic messages, is a common carrier of whatever he thus offers to carry.” Sections 2169 and onward of the Civil Code also provide other rules and requirements for common carriers. Court cases in California also help define the term Common Carrier. For example, “[A] common carrier within the meaning of Civil Code section 2168 is any entity which holds itself out to the public generally and indifferently to...