Robbery is considered a severe crime in California. If you are convicted for robbery, you might face a maximum of six years in state prison and an expensive fine. You should speak with a skilled attorney right away to mitigate the penalties. Contact us at Orange County Criminal Lawyer to build a good defense for your robbery charges.

Legal Definition of Robbery in California

California PC 211 is the statute that makes robbery a California crime. Under this statute, robbery is described as forcefully taking someone else's property against that person's will. To prosecute California robbery, the prosecutor needs to prove several factors that are referred to as the elements of the crime. Under PC 211, the elements of the crime are as follows:

  • You took someone else's property

  • The other person possessed the property

  • You took the property within the other person's immediate presence

  • You took the property against the will of that person

  • You used force or fear to take the property or prevented the person from resisting to your actions

  • You intended to deprive the other person or owner his or her property permanently or for a significant period by use of force or fear

With the description provided above, several terms or aspects come into play. Let's have a closer look at these terms.

Took Property

You are considered to have taken another person's property if you gain possession and move it at some distance despite how short it might be.

In the Possession of the Other Person

In California robbery, possession does not explain or mean that the other person was holding or touching it. It might refer to a situation where the person has control over it or has the right to control it. This is referred to as constructive possession.

Please note, in constructive possession, a person does not have to own the respective property. Therefore, one is considered to possess the property.

For instance, a store clerk or an employee is considered to have possession of the business's or store's property, even if they are not his or hers.

Deprived the Property of the Other Person's Immediate Presence

An alleged offender is considered to have committed a California robbery if he or she took the victim's property from his or her immediate presence.

A property is referred to be in the victim's immediate presence if it was within the physical control of the respective person and would have maintained its possession if the robbery had not occurred.

Against the Will of the Owner

You are considered to have taken another person's property if you took it against his or her will or did not consent to you taking it. Consent must be given freely without coercion, and while the other person understands what you are about to do.

Therefore, if you threaten the rightful property owner with a gun and run away, leaving his or her personal property behind which you end up taking, you will be considered to have committed the robbery. In this situation, you have taken the other person's property without his or her consent, even if he or she did not know that you were doing so.

Used Fear or Force

PC 211 distinguishes from other California theft crimes by the fact that it involves force or fear. Under this statute, fear means the physical force of injury to the victim, a close family member to the victim, a property owned by the victim, or someone present during the robbery scene.

Interestingly, if a defendant drugs a victim and takes his or her possession, California courts will hold that fear or force was used, and a robbery took place.

For instance, if a defendant is invited into an alleged victim's house, drugs him and takes off with the victim's possession, he or she will be guilty of violating PC 211.

Please note, pickpocketing does not count as a crime under PC 211. In such a crime, there is no force or fear used to deprive the alleged victim of his or her property. Therefore, the offender will be charged with a theft crime but not a California robbery.

Intention to Deprive the Owner His or Her Property

Finally, if you are guilty of robbery, you must intend to deprive the victim of his or her property once you take possession. You can be considered guilty of this action, whether you wanted to permanently deprive the victim of his or her property or for an extended period enough to deprive a significant portion of the property's enjoyment or value.

Penalties for Robbery in California

Penalties under PC 211 differ according to whether the crime is classified as a first or second-degree robbery. The fact that a particular robbery is a first or second- degree depends on several factors. Here is a detailed view of the penalties for both first or second degree California robbery.

Penalties for California First-Degree Robbery

A California robbery is considered to be a first-degree if the following aspects are true:

  • The alleged victim is a passenger or driver of a cable car, taxi cab, bus, trackless trolley, or other public or private transportation means.

  • The robbery was undertaken in an inhabited boat, house, or trailer.

  • The robbery took place during or immediately after the alleged victim used an ATM.

Under California laws, an inhabited structure or house is described as a place where someone else is presently living or has left intending to return.

California's first-degree robbery is considered a felony. This might attract a potential sentence with the following consequences:

  • Formal or felony probation

  • Three, four, or six years in the State Prison

  • A maximum fine of $10,000

If you committed a first-degree robbery in an inhabited structure with two or more people, your potential sentence might increase. This attracts a possible State Prison sentence for three, six, or nine years.

Penalties for California Second-degree Robbery

California's second-degree robbery is defined as any other robbery that does not meet the definition of a first-degree robbery.

Second- degree robbery is punishable by the following felony penalties:

  • Felony or formal probation

  • Two, three, five years of sentence in the State prison

  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Robbery Cases Involving Several Victims

The extent of the offense that you commit depends on the number of victims involved, not the number of items or property that you steal. Therefore, if you apply force to two people to steal a wallet from one of them, you will be charged with two California robbery counts.

However, when you steal several items from one person, you will be charged with a single California robbery count.

Sentence Enhancement in California Robbery

Several sentence enhancements can add to the consequences that an alleged offender might face under PC 211. These enhancements include the following.

Great Bodily Injury Sentence Enhancement under PC 12022.7

If, while committing an alleged robbery, the victim suffered significant bodily injury, you will be subjected to California PC 12022.7: Great bodily injury enhancement. The enhancement has the potential to add an addition of three to six years to your robbery sentence.

Please note, great bodily injury refers to substantial physical injury.

10-20-Life Use of a Gun

Under the 10-20-life use of a gun and you are done law, you can face a significant sentence if you used a gun while commissioning a robbery.

Under this statute, you will receive an extra ten years for using a firearm in the robbery, twenty years for intentionally firing the gun and twenty-five years to life for causing significant bodily injury or death during a robbery.

California's Three Strike Law

California's robbery is considered a violent felony under California laws. Therefore, this makes it a strike offense as per the California three strikes law.

Under this law, if you are convicted of robbery, and your record shows a subsequent charge with any California felony, you will face a felony sentence twice as the typical sentence. If you accumulate three strikes whereby one or more of the strikes is a robbery conviction, this will subject you to twenty-five to life years in the State prison.

Legal Defense Strategies for Robbery in California

Hiring a professional defense lawyer might help your robbery charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser sentence. A professional attorney will help you achieve your expectation by using relevant legal defense strategies in your case. Here are several legal defenses that might suit your case.

You Did Not Employ Force or Fear

The prosecutor must prove that you employed force or fear during an alleged robbery to convict you under PC 211. Therefore, if you did not employ force or fear while depriving someone of his or her property, you will be charged with a different California theft crime with a lesser penalty than robbery. For instance, if you were involved in pickpocketing, you might not be charged under PC 211 since its elements are different from the description provided above.

Honest Believe that the Property was Yours

Sometimes a property might resemble yours, making you believe that it is rightfully yours. For instance, if you lost a bag and found someone carrying a similar one in the street and employed force or fear to take it from him or her, you might end up being charged with California robbery.

In California, these situations are referred to as claims of right. This right applies even when someone mistakenly or unreasonably believed that he or she has the right to the property.

Please note, this does not apply when someone commits a robbery to settle a debt.

Consent from the Alleged Victim

You could not be prosecuted under PC 211 if you had consent from the alleged victim to take his or her property. In some cases, a property owner might willfully give you his or her belongings and end up accusing you of robbery due to forgetfulness or making a false accusation.

Mistaken Identity

In most robbery cases, all potential defendants are identified by the accuser in a pretrial lineup. In this process, there are a lot of mistaken identities and false accusations, especially when there are a lot of people resembling the actual perpetrator.

Just in most robbery scenes, the perpetrator usually wears a mask meaning that the accuser will have to identify him or her based on height, weight, clothes, and other pieces of evidence that might not give an accurate description.

A professional defense attorney should evaluate the prosecutor's evidence if the charges are based on circumstantial evidence. The attorney should find holes in the evidence presented as a way of challenging the credibility of the information provided.

False Accusation

Apart from being falsely identified as a robbery suspect in a pretrial lineup, you can be falsely accused of committing such a crime by someone who intends to settle a grudge with you or intends to get back to you. Also, someone might falsely accuse you of committing a crime to cover his or her guilt.

If you are falsely accused of robbery, you need to provide enough evidence that proves your innocence. The best way to disapprove of the accusations is by demonstrating your whereabouts when the robbery was taking place. You can achieve this by providing information such as your credit card information, phone records, and witnesses to prove your absence from the crime scene.

Police Misconduct

There are different ways police are involved in misconduct. This goes from the arrest, interrogation, and charging process. Most police engage in misconduct by violating the constitutional rights of the alleged perpetrator. In this case, they either undertake an illegal search or seizure in your property, fail to avail an attorney, or force you into a confession.

Under the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution, police officers must have an arrest or search warrant on your house, give you the right to an attorney, and avoid coercion in your interrogation. Therefore, if they do something contrary to these regulations, they can be charged with a violation of your constitutional rights. This might prompt the judge to dismiss your case since the evidence collected is deemed to be invalid.

Lack of Enough Evidence

The prosecutor has a responsibility to prove beyond doubt that you were the actual perpetrator in a California robbery. Therefore, if there is not enough evidence to prosecute you, your attorney might be able to challenge it and dismiss it. Your attorney should refer to the elements of the crime associated with California robbery charges and find ways to challenge them.

Honest Believe that the Property Belongs to Another Person

Apart from believing that a particular property is rightfully yours, you might have an honest belief that it belongs to someone else, possibly a close person. For instance, you can be charged with robbery if you honestly believe that a particular item belongs to one that your partner had lost. In that case, the right of the claim described above should apply and might help you dismiss your case.


You can be coerced into undertaking a robbery to the point that you cannot resist in some cases. For instance, if your family was seriously threatened to force you into engaging in a robbery, it is hard to resist such a situation. You can have your case dismissed if you can prove beyond doubt that you could not resist the circumstances you were placed in hence your involvement in the crime.

Crimes Related to Robbery in California

Since robbery is part of several California theft crimes, its element of the crime is shared with several offenses. Therefore, an alleged perpetrator might be charged in connection with these theft crimes. These crimes are as described below.

PC 215: Carjacking

Anything to do with California carjacking is described under PC 215. Under this statute, it is a crime to take another person's car from their immediate presence using fear or force.

In that case, carjacking is similar to robbery, although the property involved in this kind of robbery is a vehicle. You can be charged with robbery and carjacking, but you can only be convicted with one of the crimes.

In California, carjacking is a felony and attracts possible state imprisonment of three, five, or nine years.

PC 487 and PC 488: Grand Theft and Petty Theft

If you take another person's property unlawfully without force or fear, you can be convicted of grand or petty theft. Grand theft is prosecuted under PC 487, while petty theft is prosecuted under PC 488.

You will be charged with grand theft if you are involved in unlawfully taking property worth more than $950, is a firearm, car, or taken directly from the other person. All other cases are considered petty theft.

For instance, if you are involved in shoplifting or pickpocketing, you might be charged with grand or petty theft.

In California, petty theft is a misdemeanor. This means that you might face a county jail sentence for a maximum of six months.

Grand theft is a wobbler, meaning that you can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. When charged with a felony, you will face a potential jail sentence of sixteen months, two, or three years. This is less than the potential sentence for robbery. In that case, your attorney should try to get you charged with grand or petty theft other than California robbery.

PC 207: Kidnapping

Under PC 207, kidnapping is explained as the use of force or fear to move another person at a substantial distance. You can be accused of kidnapping if you move a robbery victim at a substantial distance by personally moving him or moving his or her vehicle to a different location. In such a situation, you might be charged with both robbery and kidnapping.

Kidnapping to commit a robbery is considered a severe crime in California. Kidnapping with the intent of committing robbery where the victim is moved to a distance that is not merely incidental may attract a potential life sentence with the chance of parole.

However, ordinary kidnapping is punishable by three, five, or eight years in the California state prison.

PC 518: Extortion

Everything to do with extortion is explained under PC 518. Under this statute, extortion occurs when you use force or threat to compel someone else to give you money or another property.

The difference between robbery and extortion is that in a robbery, the alleged victim does not have to consent to give up his or her money or property in extortion compared to a robbery where force or threat is crucial in the prosecution process.

The definition of fear or force is different in extortion as compared to robbery. For extortion, it does not only include threats to injure a person, but the following might also count as a threat:

  • Threatening the victim of accusing him or her of committing a crime

  • Threatening the person that you will expose his or her secret

  • Threatening the person that you will report his or her immigration status

Under PC 518, extortion is punishable by two years, three or four years sentence in county jail.

PC 459: Burglary

Under PC 459, burglary is defined as entering a building, room, or locked vehicle to commit a felony such as a robbery once you are inside.

Burglary and robbery are usually charged together since any robbery that occurs inside a building or home subjects the alleged perpetrator to burglary charges.

Burglary is a felony once committed in a private home and a wobbler if committed in a different structure. The potential felony sentence is two, four, or six years in prison.

The only exception related to California burglary is shoplifting under PC 459.5. This occurs when you enter a commercial building during business hours to steal property worth $950 or less. Shoplifting is a misdemeanor in California.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

There are slim chances of winning a robbery case without an attorney. Hiring an attorney guarantees getting better results based on the legal defense strategies used by your attorney. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we will carefully evaluate the case presented by the prosecutor, identify and utilize any substantive weakness that might help us dismiss your case, or find leverage for a lesser charge or sentence. Contact us today at 714-262-4833 for a free consultation.