Under CA penal code 211, robbery is categorized as a theft crime and defined as the use of fear or force to take another person’s property against their own will. Whether you use a weapon or just physical force, you can still be convicted for robbery as long as you used force to take property from another person against their will. You also don’t have to possess the property for you to be convicted; you can still be convicted as long as there was a confrontation, force, and threat.
Every conviction, no matter how small, can have an impact on your life. That is why it is advisable to reach out to a skilled criminal defense lawyer if you are facing a robbery charge. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we offer unmatched legal representation and help you fight your criminal charges.
Legal Definition of Robbery Under PC 211
Although robbery is classified as a theft crime according to California law, it is different from other theft crime cases in that it involves intimidation, fear, and force to the victim.
According to PC 211, a person is guilty of robbery if they:
- Take away another person’s property,
- The property was in possession of another person,
- The property was in the immediate presence of the owner when you took it,
- They used force,
- Against the other person’s will, and
- They intended to keep the property away from the owner permanently.
You can also be convicted for robbery if you take another person’s property without their consent. According to PC 211, taking means, you took possession of the property unlawfully and took it to a different location.
It is important to note that you can be convicted for robbery if you took the victim’s property directly or took away a property within your presence but belonging to someone else.
The main point is if the property owner could have protected or kept their property were it not for the force you used or the fear you instilled.
Here are the legal definitions of some of the terms used above:
- Take away property —You took property that belonged to another person.
- Another person’s possession — Another person had the property at that time.
- Immediate presence — You took the property from the other immediate presence of the other person.
- Against their will — You took the property against the owner’s will
- Fear or force — You took the property or prevented the other person from resisting by use of force or fear, and
- Permanently keep it — You intended to deprive the owner of the property’s use or access permanently.
For instance, Mike walks into the club, intending to steal. He approaches Mary and offers to buy her a drink. When Mary decides to go to the washroom, Mike adds a drug to Mary’s drink and pretends that everything is fine. Mary starts to nod off after finishing the drink. Mike takes her purse and takes her wallet together with her phone. Luckily, the bartender sees him, and she calls the police. Can Mike be convicted for robbery?
Conclusion: Mike took Mary’s wallet and phone, which were all in Mary’s possession. Since Mike and Mary did not have any close relationship and Mike had to drug May to get the items, we can assume that it was against her will. Drugging Mary is considered a use of force in California and can lead to a conviction for battery. It is clear that Mike wanted to keep these belongings from Mary permanently, and these facts are enough to have Mike convicted under PC 211.
Under California law, robbery is charged as a felony, and it is divided into two degrees:
For you to be convicted for the first-degree robbery, the following must be true:
- The robbery happened in an inhabited boat or house
- The robbery occurred after the victim used their ATM card
- The victim was working at transportation for hire like a driver, streetcar, taxi, or passenger.
If you are charged with a 1st degree of robbery, you are likely to face the following:
- Imprisonment for up to 6 years in state prison
- Fines of $10,000
- You could also face imprisonment and pay the fine as well.
- Formal probation
You would be convicted for 2nd-degree robbery if none of the above elements were present.
If you are facing charges for 2nd-degree robbery, you are likely to face the following:
- Imprisonment in state prison for five years
- Fines of $10,000 0r
Some aggravating factors can make your penalties more serious. Some of these aggravating factors include:
- If during the robbery you caused great bodily injury to the victim or any other person, you will face six additional years in prison
- If you intentionally used a fire gun during the robbery incident and, as a result, someone was injured or died, you could be sentenced to life.
Robbery is also among the “Three Strikes Law,” meaning your punishment becomes more severe if you commit several robbery crimes. You could be convicted for 25 years in prison if you are charged with two serious felonies before the robbery conviction.
There are four major defenses that our attorneys use to fight robbery charges. They include:
For example, A storekeeper reports about a robbery incident that just happened in his shop. The only detail he provides the police with is that the guy was black from head to toe. Mike happens to be walking down the same street wearing an all-black outfit, and police arrest him for robbery. Mike insists on having nothing to do with the robbery and explains everything to his lawyer. What will happen to Mike?
Conclusion: Although a robbery happened, Mike was minding his own business and did nothing illegal, just that he matched the accused’s description. The police officers also acted without certainty, and as a result, arrested the wrong person. Mike should be set free since he had nothing to do with the incident.
You Assumed you had the Right to the Property
For example, Shawn and Andrew are neighbors. Shawn has an old lawnmower, and he is looking to replace it. He offers it to his neighbor Andrew who accepts it but does not take it immediately. The following day, Andrew walks into Shawn’s garage and takes the lawnmower. Shawn’s wife had no idea that her husband had given out the lawnmower, and she decides to call the police. She tries to stop Andrew from taking it, but he pulls it away and claims it. What is likely to happen to Andrew?
Conclusion: Andrew took the loan mower that was not his in the presence of its owner. The property was already in its owner's possession when Andrew took it away. Shawn’s wife did not want Andrew to take the property away, but Andrew used force, a key element in a robbery. Andrew also intended to keep it permanently because he already claimed it. But Shawn had already permitted Andrew but forgot to inform his wife; hence Andrew should not be convicted.
Example: Mark and Stella are a divorced couple, and Stella has custody of their children. Mark decides to paint a bad image of Stella to be granted the children’s custody. He accuses Stella of breaking into his house at night and stealing his valuables at gunpoint. He tries to come up with stories to make them seem real. The police believe his story, and they arrest Stella for robbery. What will happen to Stella?
Conclusion: Mark made up a story to get back at Stella for having the kid’s custody. His story seemed so real that the police chose to believe him, but Stella had not committed any crime in a real sense. Nobody under California law should be convicted for a crime they did not do. The prosecutor can not prove anything and cannot account for any robbery element; hence Stella cannot be sentenced for a false accusation.
You did not Use Force
Example: Mary and Martha are friends. Mary’s business competitor hires Martha to steal Mary’s business ideas. Martha knows where May keeps all the files and business reports. Martha decides to get an identical briefcase like the one Mary uses. She accompanies her to a business meeting, and on their way out, Martha exchanges the cases and takes away Mary’s case with all Her Belongings. Later, Mary realizes that her belongings are gone, and she informs the police. The police check the CCTV footage, and they arrest Martha for robbery. Is Martha guilty?
Conclusion: Martha took Mary’s property in her presence. It was against Mary’s will because she used some tricks to acquire it, and I contained important documents for Mary’s business. Martha was paid to commit the crime, which means she intended to keep Mary’s documents permanently. However, Martha did not instill fear in Mary, nor did she use force which is a key element in robbery; hence Martha cannot be convicted for robbery.
Attempted robbery is when a person intends to use fear or force to get another person’s property and ends up doing something more than just that. Just like robbery, attempted robbery is considered a serious offense and is charged as a felony.
Attempted Robbery Laws
This happens when someone intends to take another person’s property and action towards the robbery but abort the mission before completing the crime.
The elements of robbery in California include:
- The defendant taking another person’s property
- The property was in the owner’s possession
- The defendant took the property from the owner in their immediate presence
- The defendant took the property against the owner’s will
- There was force or fear used to take the property
- The defendant had no intention of giving the property back to its owner.
You can be convicted for a first degree attempted robbery if:
- The alleged victim was in transportation for hire; either a driver, taxi, or passenger
- The attempted robbery happened in an inhibited place like a house or boat
- The incident took place when the alleged victim was using or had just completed using their ATM
You can be convicted for a second-degree robbery in any other situation apart from the above. Note that you can not only be convicted if the robbery was successful, but attempted robbery is also illegal under California law.
According to PC 664, in an attempted crime case, the prosecutor must beyond reasonable doubt prove that:
- You acted in a direct but ineffective way to try commit the crime, and
- You intended to commit the offense.
Penalties for Attempted Robbery
If you are charged for an attempted robbery, you will likely face one-half the charges you would have faced if the offense was successful. Robbery is a serious crime and is convicted as a felony, and the penalties for an attempted robbery are also severe.
If you are convicted with a first degree for attempted robbery, you are likely to face the following:
- Fines of up to $5,000
- 18 months to 3 years of imprisonment in state prison
If you are facing charges for a second degree attempted robbery, the penalties include:
- Fines of up to $5,000
- Imprisonment in state prison for 1 to 2.5 years
Some factors can lead to sentence enhancement and increase the punishment for an attempted robbery. They include:
- If the defendant has a previous strike under the “Three Strikes Law” of a violent felony
- The incident led to great bodily injury
- The defendant used a gun
Legal Defenses for an Attempted Robbery
There are a few defenses that your criminal defense attorney can use to fight your attempted robbery charges. They include:
You had no Intent to Commit the Crime
For you to be prosecuted for robbery, the prosecutor must beyond reasonable doubt prove that you had the intent to commit the crime. This is mainly established by the way the defendant was acting or their body language. It can be difficult to prove this when the crime was not complete. Arguing about your true intentions can be an effective way to fight your charges.
You can use mistaken identity as a defense to fight your charges. Most victims cannot make the correct identification of a robber even if the robbery happened. It may be more difficult to identify a robbery of an incomplete robbery.
There was no act in Furtherance of the Offense
For you to be convicted for this offense, there must be the element of an act in furtherance of the robbery. Your criminal defense attorney can argue that your conduct did not move the robbery forward.
For instance, Mike purchases items that indicate he wants to rob a bank. He walks around in town looking for a chance to make the robbery, but the police arrest him before he makes any move. Mike cannot be convicted for an attempted robbery because he did nothing to further the robbery.
The Property was not in the Immediate Presence of the Victim
For you to be sentenced for robbery, the property must:
- Be on the body of the victim, or
- In the immediate presence of the victim
This element of the victim’s presence when the property is taken away differentiates robbery from theft. You can argue that the victim was not fully present, which can reduce your robbery charges to theft.
You Aborted the Mission
Abandonment is one of the common legal defenses in an attempted robbery criminal charge. You are said to have abandoned a crime if you act voluntarily and end your role in the offense. Even if you already took an act to further the robbery, this defense can still be effective.
Note that you can only use this defense if you were conspiring to commit the robbery with other people and not as a single person.
Robbery and Related Offenses
Robbery is often charged alongside other theft crimes in California. Here are some of the most common crimes that share elements with PC 211:
Grand Theft and Petty Theft PC 487 and 488
You could be charged with grand theft under PC 487 or petty theft under PC 488 for taking another person’s property without using force.
If the property you took has a worth of more than $950, and it is a firearm or a car, you are likely to be convicted for grand theft. You could also face grand theft charges if you took the property from the victim directly in person. The other cases are charged as petty theft. In California, most grand or petty thefts are charged from cases like shoplifting or pickpocketing.
Petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor, and the defendant is likely to face six months in county jail.
Grand theft is convicted as a wobbler meaning the defendant can face misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the prosecutor’s discretion. If charged with a felony, the defendant is likely to face up to three years imprisonment in state prison; six attempted, they could also face robbery charges.
Carjacking PC 215
You can be convicted under PC 215 for taking another person’s car by force from their immediate presence. The elements of carjacking are almost the same as those of robbery, but the property in question is always a car in carjacking cases.
If you are facing carjacking charges, you also risk being prosecuted for robbery and may end up facing both charges, or you could potentially face one of the two.
Carjacking is convicted as a felony, and the defendant is likely to face up to 9 years imprisonment in state prison.
Kidnapping PC 207
You can be convicted for kidnapping under California law if you use force or fear to move someone else to a significant distance.
For example, Mary is walking home from work; a guy points a gun at her and forces her into a car. She is taken to a remote location out of town, and the defendant steals her purse. If the defendant is found, they will be charged with both robbery and kidnapping.
Kidnapping with the intent to commit a robbery (where a victim is moved to a local area to be robbed) is taken as a serious crime in California. If you are charged with kidnapping and robbery, you could be sentenced to life with a parole possibility.
If you are only convicted for kidnapping, you could face imprisonment of up to 8 years in state prison.
Burglary PC 459
PC 459 prohibits entering a locked car, building, or room to commit a felony crime like a robbery once inside.
Most robbery convictions are charged alongside burglary because when a robber invades a building or home and takes another person’s property, that subjects them to burglary charges.
If you commit a burglary in a private home, you could face felony convictions and a wobbler if it involves another property. If you are convicted for felony charges under PC 459, you could face up to 6 years imprisonment in state prison.
You could also be convicted for shoplifting under PC 459.5 if you entered a commercial property during business hours to illegally take away something less than $950. Shoplifting is always charged as a misdemeanor.
Extortion PC 518
You could face extortion charges if you use force or threats to get someone else to give you money or property. The force or fear used in this kind of crime is not just to injure the victim; it includes threats to:
- Expose the victim’s secrets
- Accuse them of a crime, or
- Report their immigration status.
Extortion is a felony, and the defendant can be detained in county jail for up to 4 years.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Robbery convictions can cost you and your family a lot. That is why it is crucial to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney if you are facing robbery charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we have experienced attorneys who can successfully argue in your defense. Contact our firm today at 619-877-6894 for a free consultation with one of our legal experts.