Senators could pass a bill making carjacking a state offense

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri senators will hold an executive session Thursday morning for a bill that would make vehicle hijacking an offense in the state. 

Right now, Missouri doesn't have a specific state law against vehicle hijacking. 

"Simply stealing somebody's car would considered first degree tampering with a motor vehicle," said Fulton Police Lt. Bill Ladwig.

According to Ladwig, tampering with a vehicle is a class C felony. The maximum punishment includes a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in jail.

"Tampering with a motor vehicle would be depriving somebody of their vehicle or making it inoperable," Ladwig said.

This bill would make vehicle hijacking a class B felony. The standard punishment is five to 15 years of jail time.

"In that class B felony, usually you would go to jail without bond, and that bond would be set by a judge. The range of prison sentences could be much greater than the lower felony of just tampering with a vehicle," Ladwig said. 

However, sentencing can change if there are other crimes involved such as kidnapping, assault or using a deadly weapon. A person's criminal history also impacts sentencing. 

"If they have any other violent acts in their criminal past can affect if they receive anything from probation to prison time," Ladwig said. 

Ladwig said though policing wouldn't change if the measure passes, he plans to take calls of vehicle hijacking seriously.

"Any time that anybody reports to us that they have been forcibly removed or hijacked from their car, of course, it's a much more serious offense because you're talking about someone's safety at that point. They have been put in harm's way. We always take calls like that far more seriously," he said. 

Other states have a law against vehicle hijacking. Ladwig said this was a rare event in mid-Missouri, but could be happening more often. 

"The instances in larger cities could be happening at a much greater rate. Sometimes it takes a little bit for the legislators to catch up with the latest trends in crime. It's always evolving and always changing," he said.

Ladwig commends lawmakers for attempting to make vehicle hijacking a more serious crime. 

Even if the bill passes, law enforcement advises people to be aware of their surroundings when they are driving.