Robbery law in California makes it illegal to use force or threat with the intent of taking someone else’s belongings against their consent. California Penal Code Section 211 PC explains what kind of evidence the prosecution must present in order for a court to find you guilty. If the elements of a robbery crime are not met during the commission of the crime, the court has the jurisdiction to reduce or drop the charges. Even though the court cannot find you guilty of robbery, you could get charged with a closely-related crime.

In California, penalties and punishment for robbery are severe, and the judge imposes these on a case-by-case basis. For example, the sentencing for first-degree robbery is different from that of second-degree robbery. There are also sentence enhancements for a robbery crime. For instance, when you rob multiple plaintiffs, use a gun, or cause severe bodily harm. California’s three-strikes law could make you spend 25 years to life in prison if you commit robbery for a third time.

You have the right to fight California PC 211 charges. To navigate the justice system with ease, you need to hire an experienced criminal attorney. At Darwish Law, we have reputable defense lawyers who are available to help with your robbery case. We listen to you and build strong defenses that increase the chances of having your charges dropped. If you or someone you know is in Santa Ana, and facing robbery charges, contact us today for legal representation.

The Legal Definition of California Robbery Per California Statute

California PC 211 defines the crime of robbery. You commit robbery when you use force or fear to feloniously take property belonging to someone else or that which is in their immediate possession. Simply put, you take someone else’s property without their consent by force or threat of harm. The law doesn’t need you to take the property directly from the victim’s hands. However, they should have control, be close to the property, gain the property's physical control, or have the right to possess.  You subject yourself to criminal liability when you take the property of any value, however small. Also, robbery happens when you move personal property belonging to someone else to another location or for a particular time, however short.

What the Prosecution Must Prove in Court

You cannot get charged with robbery under California PC 211 if the person in possession of property willingly gives it to you. Therefore, the prosecutor must prove certain elements to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be sentenced. These elements include:

  1. You took property that doesn’t legally belong to you

  2. The plaintiff was in possession of the property when you took it

  3. You took property from the accuser’s immediate presence

  4. The plaintiff or property owner did not consent to your taking of the property. That means you took the property against their will

  5. You prevented the plaintiff from resisting during the crime by using fear or force

  6. When committing robbery, you had the intent to deprive the property owner of enjoyment or use of the property permanently. You could also rob the plaintiff of their property long enough to deny them a significant portion of its enjoyment or value.

An example of a robbery is where you walk in a bar with the intent to steal smartphones and then sell them later for quick cash. You approach a lady, Stacy, and offer to buy her wine. Then, you distract Stacy and spike the drink with a sleeping-drug. After a short while, your victim becomes sleepy, and you have a chance to open her purse and remove her mobile phone. The bar security sees you rob Stacy and call law enforcement, who arrest you per California PC 211.

Per elements detailed under Penal Code 211, you are guilty of robbery. Firstly, you took a smartphone that belonged to someone else. Secondly, the mobile phone you took was in Stacy’s possession, and thirdly, it was in her immediate presence. Since you did not know Stacy before meeting her at the bar, it is evident that you took the smartphone against her consent. Moreover, spiking the victim’s wine was a form of force. According to California law, giving someone else a sleeping drug with ill motives is considered unlawful battery, and constitutes the use of force. Lastly, your intent was taking the mobile phone and depriving Stacy of its use and enjoyment permanently.

The Difference Between First and Second-Degree Robbery

California law splits the crime of robbery into two: first and second degree.

First-Degree Robbery. California PC Section 212.5(a) defines this crime. You violate PC 212.5(a) when:

  1. You commit robbery in an inhabited house, trailer, or boat. An inhabited structure means another person stays there and they are present, or have left but will return

  2. You rob an operator or a passenger in a cable car, taxi, bus, streetcar, and other transportation means for hire

  3. You rob someone who is coming straight from an ATM

Second-Degree Robbery. Per California PC Section 212.5(b), second-degree robbery involves all other kinds of robbery except the ones involved in first-degree robbery. The court has the jurisdiction to charge you with first- or second-degree robbery depending on the number of victims, and not the number or value of the property you robbed. Simply put, if you meet two people in an isolated street and demand their smartphones, but only take one phone, the prosecution charges you with two counts of robbery.

Penalties, Sentencing, And Punishment for California PC 211 Robbery

The judge imposes a penalty for California PC 211 depending on whether the prosecution filed robbery charges as first- or second-degree.

Sentencing and Punishment for California First-Degree Robbery

California law considers first-degree robbery as a felony. If the jury finds you guilty, possible penalties are:

  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000

  • Serving time in state prison for three, four, or six years

  • Formal probation

However, if you violate PC 211 in an inhabited dwelling, where there are two or more persons, the judge could enhance your prison sentences to three, six, or nine years per Penal Code 213.

Sentencing for California Second-Degree Robbery 

California statute defines second-degree robbery as any sort of robbery offense that does not involve the elements of first-degree robbery. Potential penalties for violating California PC 211 are:

  • A fine of not more than $10,000

  • Felony probation

  • Serving time in state prison for two, three, or five years

Robbery Cases That Involve Several Victims

In California, the prosecution determines robbery counts by the number of victims instead of the amount of property you take. For example, you corner two ladies along a sidewalk and take a purse from one of them, the prosecution files charges for two robbery crimes. But, if you rob someone of many possessions, for instance, a wallet, a smartphone, and jewelry, the prosecutor charges you with one count of robbery.

Sentence Enhancements for California Robbery

Adding to the California robbery punishment, the court could impose sentence enhancements; hence, increasing the severity of your conviction consequences. These sentence enhancements are:

1. Great Bodily Injury Enhancement: California PC 12022.7

If you cause someone else to incur a great bodily injury when committing a robbery, the judge has jurisdictions to enhance your sentence per PC 12022.7. The court can add the enhancement of three to six years to your robbery punishment. Per Penal Code section 12022.7, a great bodily injury means substantial physical harm.

2. “10-20-Life Rule: Use A Gun and You're Done” California PC Section 12022.53

You subject yourself to lengthier prison sentences if you use a gun in the commission of a robbery per California Penal Code 12022.53 PC. The sentencing enhancements per the 10-20-life rule include:

  • Serving prison time for an extra ten years when you use a firearm during a robbery

  • Serving an additional 20 years in state prison if you use a gun and open fire when you are committing robbery

  • Serving 25 years to life in prison if the victim sustains serious bodily harm or dies after using a firearm during a robbery

3. The Three Strikes Law in California

In California, robbery is categorized under “violent felonies” and as a “strike offense” per the “three strikes” law. If you are convicted for robbery, and you have faced or facing another felony charge, the court could impose twice the standard sentence for the violent felony. If you commit robbery as a third felony offense, you accumulate three strikes. This means you face thrice the typical felony sentencing, which is 25 years to life in prison.

Effective Defenses Against Your California PC 211 Robbery

An experienced criminal lawyer could help you with preparing a strong defense when you are facing potential robbery charges. Under California law, you have rights, and your lawyer could use those rights to plan a strategy for the case against you in court. Your attorney has several alternatives when building legal defenses per California PC 211. These legal defenses could help get the charges reduced or dropped if planned appropriately before trial. Some effective defenses you and your attorney could use are:

You Are a Victim of Mistaken Identity

The identification processes by eyewitnesses or plaintiffs are unreliable as they are rife with mistakes. There are many cases where the accusers or eyewitnesses pick the wrong suspects from a pre-trial lineup because they resemble the perpetrators. Often, accusers identify offenders based on circumstantial items in terms of proof. Examples of circumstantial things are pieces of clothing, ski masks, and physical appearance of the suspect, such as weight or height. If the accuser’s encounter with the offender was not face-to-face, the judge considers the proof as circumstantial and cannot be dependable.

A knowledgeable defense lawyer could evaluate the case and determine if the prosecutor filed the case based on circumstantial proof. Then, the attorney could cast doubt on the robbery charges by arguing that circumstantial evidence is questionable.  The court cannot convict you until the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you are the right perpetrator.   

You Believed That You Had the Right to Use the Property

In California, the judge cannot convict you for robbery if you take a property in someone else’s immediate possession, and you have a reasonable belief that you own it lawfully. The law refers to this defense as the “claim of right.” You could still use this defense even though your belief is unreasonable and flimsy. There are limitations to use this defense when accused of robbery. These include:

  • The claim of right is not applicable if you robbed somebody of their property in order to settle debts

  • The court would not approve of this defense if you hid the property even after getting discovered

  • The judge would not allow the claim of right defense if you robbed unlawful items like guns or drugs

The Accusation Is False

Credible statistics show that, in California, false accusations are to blame for a significant percentage of criminal charges. Another person could falsely accuse you of PC 211 for many reasons. For example, the offender could be looking to cover up their offense. You could also have a jealous or angry ex-lover who is looking to avenge, and falsely accuse you of robbing them in a bid to control you. If you believe that the plaintiff filed a false robbery allegation against you, your criminal defense attorney could investigate the facts thoroughly and cast doubts in the case.

You Didn't Use Force or Fear

Under California law, the use of force or fear is an element of robbery crime. The judge cannot impose penalties for robbery if the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you used these elements during the commission of the crime. Since the robbery charges cannot uphold appropriate evidential standards according to the law, your defense lawyer could cast doubts in the case. The court has the jurisdiction to drop the case, reduce your charges, or charge you with another related offense in place of robbery. Typically, other similar crimes attract less sentencing, and odds are they have a lesser effect on your criminal history than robbery charges.

Criminal Offenses Related to California Penal Code 211 PC Robbery

Even if your actions do not amount to robbery, the court can still find you guilty of another closely-related crime. Crimes related to California PC 211 are those encompassing some similar elements. The prosecution can charge you with the crimes, together with or in place of PC 211. The crimes include:

Burglary: California PC 459 

California PC 459 defines burglary as the act of gaining illegal access to a car, building, or room, with a deliberate intent to commit a felony. In California, prosecutors file charges for robbery and burglary together since before you rob in a house or car, you first commit burglary. California law considers burglary a felony if you commit it in a private dwelling, and a wobbler if you commit it in all other properties. If found guilty of felony burglary, possible penalties are serving two, four, or six years in prison.

California PC Section 459.5 – shoplifting, is an exemption to burglary law. You commit shoplifting when you gain access to a commercial property during working hours and take items valued not more than $950. In Santa Ana, shoplifting is a misdemeanor, unlike burglary.

Extortion: California PC 518 

You are said to commit extortion under California PC 518 if you make someone else offer you property or money using threat or force. The primary disparity between extortion and robbery is that, unlike in robbery, the plaintiff consents for you to take their money or property in extortion. However, the accuser is compelled to consent because of your threat or use of force. Another disparity is that extortion’s meaning of “fear or force” is different from that of robbery. Force or fear not only involves threats to harm someone else but also to:

  • Report another person’s immigration status

  • Expose a secret

  • Accuse another person of an offense

Kidnapping: California PC 207

Kidnapping, under California PC 207, occurs when you move someone else from one location to another, however short, using fear or force. During the robbery, you can subject yourself to the kidnapping offense if you make the accuser move even the slightest distance. For instance, by forcing a victim to enter your vehicle, driving to a secluded alley two blocks away, and taking their personal property, the prosecution can file both kidnapping and robbery charges against you. If found guilty of PC 207 and PC 211, possible prison sentencing is life imprisonment but with parole. If convicted of only kidnapping offense, potential punishment is serving time in state prison for three, five, or eight years.

Contact a Santa Ana Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Robbery allegations not only come with severe punishment but can also ruin your reputation or even make you suffer when looking for a job. Irrespective of the accuracy of robbery allegations against you, you need the help of a criminal lawyer who has a proven track record. The kind of legal counsel you find at Darwish Law is unmatched.  We have helped a significant number of clients have their robbery, and related charges dropped thanks to our many years of experience.

Our capable attorneys are available around-the-clock to respond to your inquries. Contact Darwish Law offices in Santa Ana, California, if you or your loved one is charged with robbery. Speak to our experienced robbery lawyers by dialing 714-887-4810. Our team is on standby to pick up your call and go the extra mile in your defense.