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How serious is the offense of vehicle hijacking?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | Criminal Defense

While it’s generally understood that theft offenses in Missouri are serious crimes, the theft of certain things can lead to more severe penalties.

One such theft offense that carries graver penalties than usual is vehicle hijacking. What is this offense, and what are the penalties that await those who are convicted?

Seizing a motor vehicle is hijacking

According to state law, a person commits vehicle hijacking if they knowingly threaten another person to seize (or attempt to seize) possession of a motor vehicle.

There are two criminal grades for vehicle hijacking. The offense is normally a class B felony, but it can become a class A felony if one of the following criteria applies:

  • Physical injury: During the course of the offense, the offender causes serious physical injury to any person in immediate possession, control or presence of the vehicle.
  • Weapon: The offender had a deadly weapon during the offense.
  • Threat with a dangerous instrument: The offender used or threatened to use a dangerous instrument against any person.
  • Intimidation with a weapon: The offender displayed or threatened to use what appears to be a deadly weapon.
  • The presence of a child: The offender seized the vehicle in which a child or “special victim” was present. Special victims include:
    • Law enforcement officers
    • Emergency personnel
    • Probation and parole officers
    • Elderly persons
    • Persons with disabilities
    • Highway workers
    • Utility workers
    • Cable workers

Either criminal grade will lead to severe penalties.

The penalties for vehicle hijacking

If a court convicts a person of vehicle hijacking as a class B felony, the person faces up to 15 years of imprisonment. However, a conviction for vehicle hijacking as a class A felony carries up to 30 years to life imprisonment.

Imprisonment aside, a conviction for vehicle hijacking will appear on a person’s criminal record. A felony on record can hurt a person’s future financial, educational and employment opportunities.

Vehicle hijacking is a felony offense, which sets it apart from petty theft misdemeanors. A conviction can lead to decades of prison time, not to mention a criminal offense. If you face charges, know that an attorney may be able to advise you on your case and your defense options.