California’s Robbery laws prohibit you from unlawfully using force or threat to take other people’s property against their will. Many people fail to understand that when they decide to take someone’s property by force, they commit a robbery, which the law treats as a felony offense.
Whether you commit the crime knowingly or unknowingly, the law will punish your crime as either a first or second degree. A robbery offense receives a high sentence of up to nine years without sentence enhancements. If you receive sentence enhancements on your robbery charge, you may end up receiving even a life imprisonment sentence. This will require you to engage the services of a criminal defense attorney to represent you in court.
When law enforcement officers arrest you for robbery in Pasadena, you should not face this difficult time alone. It is essential to consult with a criminal defense law firm, mainly when your actions may lead you to spend an extended time in jail. Hiring an experienced attorney to work on your defense will increase your chances of receiving a lesser sentence. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we will represent you and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case.
Legal Definition of Robbery in California
Under California Penal Code 211, robbery is the crime of taking someone’s property against their will, and the offender uses force or threat to accomplish this act. The law treats robbery as a felony offense carrying a penalty of up to nine years imprisonment in state prison.
Elements of Robbery under California Penal Code 211
For a robbery charge to hold in a court, the prosecution must prove the following facts beyond reasonable doubts:
- The property you took wasn’t yours.
- You took someone’s property in their immediate presence.
- The property you took was in possession of someone else.
- You took someone’s property against their will.
- You used force and threat to take the property.
- You used fear and intimidation on the other person to prevent them from resisting.
- By use of force, you have denied the other person the right to enjoy their property.
There are several terms used regarding robbery crimes in California like:
In possession of someone else’ property
Under California PC 211, possession of a property doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is holding or touching the said property. The law requires that a person have control over the property or own the right to control the said property. A person can have possession of a property even if they are not the owners. For example, the law recognizes an employee of a particular store to control the store's property during robbery crime proceedings, even if they are not the store’s actual owners.
What does it Mean When You are Charged with “Taking property”?
The law will view you to have taken someone else's property when you either gain possession or remove it to another place. The distance that you move the property doesn’t matter.
Intent to deny the owner their Property
When you commit a robbery offense, you intend to deny the owner the right to enjoy their property. You can achieve this by either taking possession of the property permanently or for some time, in which case the owner doesn’t partake in the property’s value.
Intimidation, use of fear and force
The main difference between robbery and other theft charges in California is the essence of using force, fear, or threat to intimidate that always accompanies robbery. The use of force when it comes to robbery means that there was the application of physical force. While fear and intimidation mean that the other person fears injury to themselves, their family members, or their property.
Against the owner’s will
Under PC 211, the law considers you to have taken a property against its owner's will when they do not offer you consent to take it. You cannot coerce the owner to give you consent as it must be freely offered.
California Robbery Penalties
Under PC 211, California law classifies robbery into two categories:
First Degree Robbery
The prosecution will charge you with a first-degree robbery when the following takes place:
- When you attack a person who is a passenger or a driver of either a taxi, bus, streetcar, subway, and other means of hired transportation.
- When you rob a person who is using an ATM, or immediately they leave the ATM.
- If you rob an inhabited house, trailer, or boat.
First Degree Robbery Penalties
The law treats first-degree robbery as a felony offense, and its penalties include:
- An imprisonment period ranging from three to six years in state prison.
- Formal probation.
- Pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Both the imprisonment and fine.
You should note that the court may sentence you to a maximum period of nine years in state prison if you rob an inhabited place in partnership with other people.
Second Degree Robbery
The law defines second-degree robbery as an offense that doesn’t meet the qualification for first-degree robbery.
Second-degree robbery penalties
The law treats second-degree robbery as a felony offense, and the following penalties will apply:
- Felony (formal ) probation.
- An imprisonment period ranges from two to five years in state prison.
- Pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
- Both the fine and imprisonment.
Apart from fines and imprisonment, there are other forms of sentences that you can receive after your conviction, such as community service, probation, and restitution. To come up with the appropriate sentence, a judge will use the following facts in your robbery case:
- Level of intimidation and fear used.
- The nature of the injury the victim sustained during the robbery.
- Your criminal record.
- Your age.
- The value the victim lost due to the crime.
What Happens when Robbery involves multiple Victims?
The law determines your robbery count depending on the number of victims and not on the number of items you take during a robbery. For instance, if you intimidate three people to rob two of them, you will face three-count counts of robbery under California law. On the other hand, when you steal under California law several items from a person, you will face the law on one count of robbery under California law.
California Penal Code 211 Penalty Enhancements
There are several instances where your robbery conviction could lead to additional penalties. These instances include:
Severe Body Injury Enhancement (PC 12022.7)
If you cause severe bodily injury to another person during the robbery, the law will subject you to PC 12022.7. If the prosecution charges you with this enhancement, it will add three to six years of jail time to your robbery sentence.
Gun Use (PC 12022.53)
California law provides longer sentences when a person uses a gun while performing a robbery crime. You may obtain the following penalties on top of your robbery sentencing:
- Additional ten years for using a gun during a robbery;
- Additional 20 years if you intentionally fire a gun while committing a robbery offense;
- A minimum sentence of 25 years or life imprisonment when you cause severe bodily injury or death by firing your gun during the robbery.
Is Robbery a “Strike Offense?”
Yes, California considers robbery as a felony, which is under the three-strikes law. The three-strikes law will ensure that when you receive a robbery conviction in your record and then face subsequent felony charges in California, the law will ensure that you face severe charges for your crime, usually double your sentence. If you have charges that lead to the three-strikes sentencing, with a Penal Code 211 conviction among them, your punishment will be 25 years up to life imprisonment in state prison.
Legal Defense against Robbery Charges
When you face robbery charges, it is advisable to seek a criminal defense attorney who will help you fight against the charges. When you hire a criminal defense attorney who has experience in the criminal proceedings’ inner workings, you may have the court dismissing your charges or reducing them. Some of the legal defenses one can apply are:
You are Innocent
When the prosecution raises a robbery charge against you, you can defend yourself by proving your innocence. You can achieve this by undermining the evidence provided by the prosecution since a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime you are facing.
Your defense attorney can attack the prosecutors’ case by providing evidence that will undermine their case. It is the responsibility of your defense attorney to challenge the prosecution’s evidence, like eyewitnesses. You should note that you do not necessarily have to prove your innocence before the jury; all you need is to cast doubts towards the prosecution's evidence.
Claim of Right
If you take property from someone else believing that the property is rightfully yours, the law will excuse you. This defense will apply even if your belief to claim the right to the property seems unreasonable or is mistaken. You should note that you cannot use this defense if you steal from someone in a debt settlement.
You Committed the Crime Under Duress
If you commit a robbery offense because someone else forces or threatens you to, then you can use this defense against the charge. This defense is difficult to prove, but if you have enough evidence to back you up, you should use it.
When you take the property without application of force
For a robbery charge to stand in court, the prosecution must prove the element of fear or use of force while taking the other person’s property. Your criminal defense attorney will have to prove to the court that you did not apply force or intimidated the other person into giving you the property. You may end up facing additional charges like theft, but their sentence is not as severe as that of robbery.
You Were Intoxicated
You can also prove that shows you were intoxicated as a defense against robbery charges. There are two types of intoxications, namely:
During a robbery charge, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt your intent while committing the crime. You can use intoxication as a defense to prove that you lacked sufficient intent in committing the crime. You will have to prove that you could not force the victim while intoxicated. This defense may result in a lesser charge leveled against you.
If you are intoxicated against your will, the law will excuse your criminal charge if it happened while you were intoxicated. You will have to prove to the court that you were intoxicated against your will.
If the Accusation is False
If you are falsely accused, your defense attorney will have to investigate and come up with facts to prove your innocence. Someone may blame you for covering up their guilt or someone with a score to settle.
A Victim of Police Entrapment
When you use this defense, you will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime since you were entrapped into doing so. You will have to prove that the person you robbed had started the whole incident to trap you into committing a robbery offense. You will have to prove that you had no intention to commit robbery from the word go. This defense is tough to establish, but if you can, it will help in having your charges dropped or lead to a lesser conviction.
A Victim of Mistaken Identity
You may face robbery charges due to mistaken identity, which occurs during a pretrial lineup. The robbery victim may pick you up based on their recollection of the incident, which might be inaccurate. The victim might identify the culprit based on their height, their dressing, among other things.
Your defense attorney must evaluate the case presented by the prosecution to ensure that the facts are correct. They should prove to the court of your innocence and ensure that the jury will rule when it has a total conviction of the identity of the person who committed the crime.
Related Offenses to Robbery Charges
When it comes to robbery charges, the following charges frequently accompanies it:
Grand and Petty Theft (PC 487 and 488)
When you unlawfully take other people’s property without applying force or intimidating them, the law can convict you under PC 487 for grand theft or under PC 488 for petty theft.
Grand Theft (PC 487)
You will face grand theft when you take property that is:
- Worth more than $950.
- A firearm.
- A car.
- When you take the property directly from the victim.
When you commit grand theft, you do not necessarily have to use force or intimidation, but you must move or keep the stolen property for some time. The prosecution must prove that you intended to take the property permanently or that you kept it long enough, and due to this, the owner (owner’s agent) suffered loss or did not derive enjoyment from their property.
California treats grand theft as a wobbler offense where the prosecution may charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor offense depending on the circumstances leading to the crime and will carry the following sentence:
- A maximum imprisonment period not exceeding three years
- A $10,000 fine
- Both imprisonment and pay the fine.
Petty Theft (PC 488)
Petty theft is any theft that does not qualify as grand theft, and California law treats it as a misdemeanor offense carrying:
- A maximum imprisonment period not exceeding six months in county jail.
- A $1,000 fine.
- Both imprisonment and pay the fine.
Receiving Stolen Property (PC 496(a))
You will face criminal charges for receiving stolen property under California Penal Code 496 (a) when you receive or buy a property that you know was stolen, or extortion was used to gain it. You will also be guilty of this crime if:
- You conceal, sell, and withhold stolen property.
- When you aid someone in concealing and selling stolen property.
- When you aid, someone is withholding the stolen property from its rightful owner.
You should note that receiving a stolen property charge means that you took control and possession of the property. Having access to the stolen property or being near it does not qualify for receiving a stolen property charge.
Receiving stolen property is a wobbler where the prosecution can charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor offense, depending on your case’s severity. The penalties for a misdemeanor charge include:
- One year imprisonment in county jail.
- Pay $1,000 in fines.
- Both the imprisonment and fine.
If the prosecution charges you with a felony for receiving stolen property, you will face the following penalties:
- A maximum imprisonment period not exceeding three years in state prison.
- Pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Both the fine and the imprisonment.
Carjacking Penal Code 215
When you take someone’s car from their presence by use of force and fear, the law under Penal Code 215 will convict you for carjacking. Carjacking is similar to robbery, with the only difference being carjacking; only a car is taken away. The prosecution can charge you with both counts of robbery and carjacking. The court can, however, convict you for one of the charges. If the court convicts you for carjacking, which is a felony offense, you will serve a jail term that ranges from three to nine years in state prison.
If you commit a single act that violates both penal codes 215 and 211, the court will convict you for one offense. This means that the prosecution will have to decide to file charges either under PC 211 or PC 215 and not both.
Extortion (PC 518)
Under California PC 518, it is a crime to threaten or use force to make someone give you their property or money. The main difference between a robbery and extortion offense is that the victim doesn’t consent to have their property taken in a robbery. In contrast, in extortion, they give consent under duress.
Under extortion, a victim may give consent to have their property taken away due to:
- A threat to cause them bodily injury,
- The threat to accuse them of a crime,
- The threat to expose their immigration status, or
- The threat to expose their secrets.
The law treats extortion as a felony offense carrying an imprisonment period ranging from two to four years in county jail.
Kidnaping Charges (PC 207)
A kidnapping offense occurs when you move a person from one place to another by applying fear or force.
If you move your victim from one place to another, intending to rob them in the course of a robbery, you may face both kidnapping and robbery charges.
You should note that the exempts you from penalties arising due to abduction charges of minors below 14 years if you are:
- Natural father,
- Adoptive parent,
- Biological parent,
- Or if the court allows you to have access to the minor.
If the prosecution levels felony charges against you, the penalties will include:
- An imprisonment period of up to eight years in state prison,
- If your victim is below 14 years, you will face an imprisonment period of up to 11 years in state prison, or
- If the court grants you probation, you may spend a minimum of one year in county jail.
Burglary Charges (PC 459)
It is an offense to enter a building, a room, a locked motor vehicle to commit a crime once inside under California law. A burglary charge always accompanies a robbery offense since you will have to enter a building to rob it.
A prosecutor can charge you with a felony offense if you committed a burglary in a home, and you may face the following penalties:
- An imprisonment period of up to six years in state prison if you commit a first-degree burglary offense.
- One year imprisonment in county jail if you commit a second-degree burglary offense.
Find a Robbery Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Penal Code 211 is among the severe charges in California that could make you serve many years in prison. You may face charges due to mistaken identity or false accusations, which could lead to your conviction even if you are innocent. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we understand the challenges you face regarding proving your innocence in a robbery charge. We are dedicated to ensuring you receive proper guidance and defense when you face robbery charges. Call us at 626-689-2277 and receive a free consultation regarding your case.