Robbery is a severe crime in California that gets prosecuted as a felony offense. A conviction on this offense can see a defendant serve several years in state prison. The law on the robbery is found under PEN 211. Robbery is defined as the taking of another person’s property or property in their immediate possession without their consent while intimidating them with fear and use of force. The intention of taking the property is to ensure they get permanently deprived of its use. If you are facing allegations of robbery in Los Angeles, speaking with skilled criminal lawyers is crucial. The criminal attorneys at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm have years of experience defending clients successfully against this crime.

Defining Robbery According to PEN 211

The law gives a simple definition of robbery. To classify an action as robbery, a person must take property belonging to another or in their possession illegally. The taking is generally against the will of the person with the property. And to achieve this, fear or force is applied. Robbery can get best defined through its various elements. A prosecutor in proving a person is guilty of the crime must demonstrate how the following aspects of the offense got fulfilled. These elements are:

  • The defendant took property belonging to another person
  • The property taken was with another person
  • The property taken from this other person was in their immediate presence
  • The defendant had no consent to receive the property or items
  • To obtain the property, fear, force or both were applied to avoid resistance from the one with them
  • When the defendant used force or fear in taking the property, he or she had the intention of depriving the property owner of its use totally or for a prolonged time.

Various terms get used in defining robbery legally. Here, we take a look at these terms and their meaning according to the law.

Taking Property

One takes another person’s property when they take possession of the property, and move it away from them for some distance irrespective of how far.

Property in Possession Someone Else

According to the law of robbery in California, ownership does not mean that an individual is in actual possession or is holding it. When a person has control over the property and has the mandate to manage it, he or she is said to be in constructive possession over it. For instance, a person working in a store assumes constructive possession of the merchandise in the store.

Taking from another Person or their Immediate Presence

Robbery is when a person takes property from another person directly or from their immediate presence without their consent. The use of fear or intimidation achieves this. Property is said to be within the immediate presence of a person when it is in their physical control. This means they would have had possession or ownership of it, but the robbery occurred.

Against the Will of the Property Owner

Robbery is when a person is said to have taken property against the will of the owner if he or she has not permitted them to take it. The person that consents must do so without coercion and understands their actions.

Using Fear or Force

Robbery is different from other theft crimes because, for one to commit a theft, they must use fear or force. The use of force, in this case, means applying physical strength, while fear is when a person threatens the other with the infliction of injuries. Fear of force can get directed towards:

  • The victim of the robbery
  • A family member of the victim
  • The property of the victim
  • Any person present when the theft is taking place

A defendant can also drug their victim and proceed to rob them. This has been considered as a form of fear by California courts to commit robbery. This means, when one intentionally drugs another person to take their property without their resistance, it is robbery.

The Intention of Depriving the Property Owner of its Pleasure

A defendant is guilty of the crime of robbery if, when they committed the offense, they intended to deny the victim the joy of their property. The deprivation may have been intended to be permanent or for a prolonged time.

PEN 211 Violation Penalties

According to PEN 211, the crime of robbery gets categorized into two degrees. A person can commit robbery in the first-degree or second-degree. The penalties for each level are different.

To be convicted of first-degree robbery, one of the below needs to be factual:

  • The victim of the theft is a passenger or a driver of a common carrier such as a taxi, streetcar, bus, cable car, subway, trackless trolley or any other commercial transport
  • The robbery got committed in a place with inhabitants such as a boat, house or trailer
  • The theft occurs immediately following the use of an ATM or while the victim is using it

A structure is defined as inhabited when a person dwells in it. 

When a person gets charged with first-degree robbery, he or she faces felony prosecution. The possible sentences a defendant will face if convicted of the crime include:

  • Being sentenced to formal or felony probation
  • State imprisonment for three, four or six years
  • A cash fine of not more than $10,000
  • Both a cash fine and jail time

But, when a defendant commits a first-degree robbery within a structure that is inhabited and with the help of two or more people, their possible prison sentence will increase. The jail time the defendant is likely to face would be three, six, or nine years.

A robbery that does not meet the requirements of a first-degree robbery definition is a second-degree robbery. A second-degree robbery is also prosecuted as a felony and carries various felony penalties such as:

  • The defendant may get sentenced to formal or felony probation
  • State imprisonment for two, three or five years
  • Paying cash fine not exceeding $10,000

When Robbery Involves Multiple People

Robbery count gets established by the number of victims present, but not by the volume of the items taken. For instance, if a defendant uses fear or force against two people and steals a single handbag belonging to either of them, they will face two counts of the robbery charge. The law considers that the crime was committed against two people even though only an item or items belonging to one person got taken.

On the other hand, when a defendant takes various items from a single person such as their wallet, cell phone, and watch, they will face a single count of robbery charges. This again is because the offense occurred against one person.

Sentence Enhancements in Robbery

Aside from the penalties, a robbery defendant may face as discussed above; multiple sentence enhancements exist that increase the consequences a defendant would face if convicted of robbery. These enhancements include:

PEN 12022.7 – Great Bodily Injury Violations

Sometimes in the act of theft, a defendant can injure a victim significantly, causing substantial injuries to their body. When this happens, the defendant will also face charges of violating PEN 12022.7. With this sentence enhancement, the defendant is likely to face additional jail time of between three and six years to their original sentence.

PEN 12022.53 – Use of Gun

PEN 12022.53 is the law of 10-20-life use a gun, and you get done. This law allowed for substantially longer jail sentences when a defendant in committing the robbery used a firearm against their victim. The additional jail time will include:

  • Ten years when the defendant directly used the gun during the robbery
  • Twenty years when the defendant directly and intentionally fired a firearm while committing the robbery
  • Twenty-five years to life imprisonment when a person suffers significant injuries or death because of the gun while committing a robbery.

The Three Strikes Law in California

Robbery, under PEN 211, is a violent crime in California. For this reason, it is considered a strike offense according to the three-strike law. If one has a robbery conviction in their record and gets charged with another felony offense, it means the penalties will be twice those of an ordinary sentence for the offense.

If a defendant gets three strikes under this law, a conviction on another felony offense will subject them to twenty-five years imprisonment to life.

Fighting PEN 211 Charges

Fortunately, with a skilled and experienced attorney, one can fight these allegations. By the use of various legal defenses, a lawyer can help fight the charges and get them reduced or dropped. Some of the common defense strategies a lawyer may use include:

The Defendant Never used Fear or Force in Taking the Property

The application of fear or force during a robbery is a significant element that differentiates a robbery crime from other theft crimes in California. For these charges to stick against a defendant, a prosecutor must prove the defendant applied fear or force during the act. Even with this defense, a defendant can be found guilty of a different theft crime in California that carries lesser penalties.

When a defendant tried to take property belonging to another person, the victim may have felt intimidated and gave the property to the defendant. This does not mean the defendant used fear or force against their victim. This is a solid defense. If accepted, it may lead to a reduction of charges and the penalties given to the defendant.

The Defendant had Reason to Believe They Had Rights to the Items or Property

A defendant can commit a robbery with the belief that the item or property is rightfully theirs. If this is the case, the law will excuse the crime. This is the claim of right defense. This defense is also applicable even when the defendant’s belief is unreasonable or mistaken. But, one cannot commit robbery to settle a debt and claim this defense.

The Defendant was Identified as the Robber Wrongly

Typically, a defendant in a robbery case gets often charged with the offense following a pretrial lineup, where a victim identifies them. This process has numerous mistakes that often lead to false accusations.

In many robberies, a perpetrator of the offense would disguise themselves or wear a mask in other ways. For this reason, other things that are not as accurate are used to identify the perpetrator, such as their clothes, weight or height, and their voice.

With an experienced lawyer, it is possible to analyze the evidence the prosecutor will use and establish if the evidence is credible or is based on unreliable sources. A lawyer fights these charges against the defendant by creating doubt in the evidence provided. The lawyer also reminds the court that it is crucial to be 100% sure that the person they plan to convict for the crime did commit it.

False Accusations

Many people get falsely accused of robbery and as well as other crimes in California. People have various reasons why they would falsely accuse a person of theft. The real perpetrator may be attempting to cover their crime by turning the attention to another person. Other times a person may have a personal vendetta against a person and accuse them of robbery. A lawyer will always carry a detailed investigation to establish that their client got falsely accused and present the same to the court.

If a lawyer can convince the court on this defense, the charges against the defendant can get dismissed.

Related Offenses to Robbery

Various offenses share their elements with those of PEN 211 robbery. These offenses can get charged alongside those of robbery, and they include the following:

1. Carjacking PEN 215

This statute prohibits a person from taking a car belonging to someone else while it is in their presence by use of fear or force. This means, the crime has similarities to that of robbery, but in this case, it is a car that is stolen and not other possessions.

The crime of carjacking is categorized as a felony in California and can carry a state jail time of up to 9 years or over when:

  • A victim of the crime is injured
  • The perpetrator uses a gun to instill fear and force the victim to surrender the car
  • The defendant committed the offense under the direction of a gang
  • The defendant kidnapped the victim or another individual while committing the offense

When a person gets convicted of carjacking, they earn a strike under the three-strike law. This means that, before the defendant can get paroled, they must serve not less than 85% of their sentence.

Legal Defenses in Carjacking

With a criminal lawyer, a defendant can fight against these charges using a variety of defense strategies. Some of these include:

  • Mistaken identity – just like in robbery, it is possible for a victim of carjacking to identify the defendant as the perpetrator by mistake. In most cases, the victim is usually scared that they may not recall the person that carjacked them because they didn’t take a good look at them, or they wore a mask.
  • The defendant did not use fear or force – the act of walking to a person and asking them to get out of their car is intimidating enough without using fear or authority. A lawyer can explore this defense to convince the court that the alleged victim handed over the vehicle where no fear or force got used.

2. Grand Theft PEN 487 and 488

When a person takes property belonging to another person unlawfully and does not use fear or force in having them, they may face charges of grand theft under PEN 487 or 488. For a person to get charged with grand theft, the property they are accused of taking must carry a value of $950 or more. Grand theft can also get prosecuted when the item taken is a firearm or a car. The property taken must be directly from the victim’s possession. If the property taken is of a lesser value, the offense gets charged as petty theft.

Cases of shoplifting and pickpocketing are charged as petty thefts and not robberies or grand theft in California. The offense of petty theft is prosecuted as a misdemeanor and carries a maximum jail time of six months in county prison.

On the other hand, charges on grand theft can get prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor offense. The penalties for grand theft are lesser than those of robbery. A felony conviction will carry a jail sentence of sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months.

Because of the lesser penalties, a lawyer representing a robbery defendant can seek to have the charges against their client reduced to those of grand theft or another lesser theft offense.

3. PEN 207 – Kidnapping

This statute prohibits a person from using fear or force to move or relocate another person without their consent. For instance, a person, while robbing their victim can force them into a vehicle to rob them from a different location. This can lead to the perpetrator facing both kidnapping and robbery charges.

When a person kidnaps another to rob them, it is a severe felony. If one is found guilty of kidnapping a person to steal from them, the penalties are harsh, with a possibility of life imprisonment.

The kidnapping charges can get aggravated by certain factors such as:

  • The perpetrator used fraud or fear of a victim that is a minor. Additionally, with connection to the robbery, the perpetrator kidnapped the occupants of the car to rob them while a minor was present in the car
  • On capturing a person, the perpetrator demands a ransom from the family
  • In the process of robbing and kidnapping the victim, the perpetrator causes the victim to suffer substantial injuries

A person accused of kidnapping can have various defenses presented by his or her lawyer. Some of these are:

  • The alleged victim willingly agreed to be moved. For instance, in a robbery case, the victim may have had no money and decided to go with the perpetrator to get the money from their ATM
  • There was no sufficient movement to qualify a kidnapping offense. For instance, if a perpetrator enters a store to steal from it and orders everyone in one room except the manager and locks them in. He does this to facilitate the robbery, but he did not move the other people over a substantial distance
  • The defendant did not carry out the kidnapping offense and got wrongly identified

4. PEN 518 – Extortion

A person is charged with this offense when they use threats or force to persuade another to hand over their property or money. When compared to robbery under PEN 211, the victim doesn’t permit the perpetrator to take their money or belongings. However, in extortion, the victim allows the perpetrator to have the property or money. This usually is due to the threats or force applied against them.

In extortion, the victim often gets threatened with bodily injuries to themselves or their loved ones. The perpetrator may also threaten to expose a secret of the victim, accuse them of an offense. Sometimes, a perpetrator that knows the immigration status of the victim can use this knowledge to take from them.

The crime of extortion is a serious offense that carries severe penalties when one is convicted. A defendant, in this case, faces two or three or four years of county imprisonment, among other penalties.

5. PEN 459 – Burglary

This law prohibits a person from entering a building, house, room, or vehicle that doesn’t belong to them to steal. The most common felony offense committed under burglary is robbery.

Often, robbery and burglary and charged alongside each other. This is because when a theft takes place in another person’s house, also referred to as home invasion; it subjects the perpetrator to a burglary offense.

If a person commits burglary in a home, felony charges are brought against him. The penalty when one gets convicted of the felony includes imprisonment for two, four, or six years. But, if the burglary occurred on another structure, the offense is a wobbler. This means the perpetrator can face charges on felony or misdemeanor offenses.

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me

Allegations on a robbery offense are severe and often lead to significant repercussions for the accused. Many people also face these charges wrongly and risk being convicted for a crime they never committed. When faced with such accusations, one needs an experienced criminal attorney to help fight against the allegations. The criminal attorneys at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm in Los Angeles are attorneys that are committed and passionate in defending their clients. Call us at 310-935-1675, and let us discuss your case further.