The California PC 211 defines robbery as the illegal/felonious taking of property in possession of another person. You may face robbery charges for taking property from the victim's person or immediate presence against the victim's will and using force and fear. According to California laws, the crime of robbery is always a felony. The crime attracts hefty penalties, including imprisonment and fines. If you are facing robbery charges in San Jose, we at the California Criminal Lawyer Group can help you come up with a proper defense to fight the charges.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
The crime of robbery has several elements under California law. The prosecutor has to prove the various elements of the crime to prove that you are guilty. It should be evident that you took property belonging to another person. The property should have been in possession of another person.
The prosecutor has to prove that you took the property from the victim or the victim's immediate presence. You should have taken the property without the victim's permission or against the will of the victim. While taking the property from the victim, it should be apparent that you used fear or force. Other than the use of force or fear, it should be evident that you had the intent of depriving the victim of the property or its significant value permanently or for a considerable period.
In the context of California law, you take another person's property by gaining possession of the property and moving the property for some distance. You may face robbery charges even if you move the property for a short-range.
Possession of property does not imply that an individual is touching or holding the property. As long as an individual has control of the property, he/she is in constructive possession of the property. Even if the victim is not the actual owner of the property, he/she may be in possession of the property. As long as the defendant takes property from the ownership of the victim, he/she will face charges even if the victim, if not the property owner.
The law considers a property to be within a person's immediate presence if it is within the physical control of the person. A person is in possession of the property if he/she would have been able to keep the property if the robbery did not take place.
You could not face robbery charges in California if you had the permission or consent of the victim to take the property. It is important to note that a person who gives consent must understand what he/she is doing. If the victim is a minor or a person with limited mental capabilities, he/she may not be viable to give consent. On the other hand, a person should give consent freely and not through coercion or threats. If you threaten a person using a gun and you make the person to flee before taking his/her property, you are guilty of robbery under PC 211.
The use of force and fear is a common element of robbery crimes in California. The aspect of using fear or force distinguishes the crime of robbery from other theft crimes in California. Using force or fear means that you make the victim fear impending harm or injury to the victim, the relatives of the victim, the property of the victim, or any other person present at the time of the robbery. It is common for defendants to drug their victims before taking money or property from the victims. According to California law, drugging a victim is equivalent to using fear or force. Therefore, if you drug a person and take his/her property, you will be guilty of committing a robbery.
Slight and harmless touching does not qualify as robbery. For example, if you harmlessly touch a victim when pickpocketing and taking property from him/her, you cannot face robbery charges. Therefore, a pick-pocketer cannot face robbery charges but may be guilty of another theft crime under California law.
For you to face robbery charges in California, it should be apparent that you had the intent to deprive the victim of the property. You may have had the intention to deny the person of the property permanently. You may also have had the intent to deprive the victim of the property for a period long enough for him/her to be deprived of a significant portion of the property's value or enjoyment.
Value of Property
It is important to note that you may face robbery charges irrespective of the value of the property involved. The property involved may be of small or minimal value but still earn you robbery charges. All that matters is your intention to deprive the owner of the property permanently or temporarily.
At times, you may rob several victims at once in one instance of robbery. In this case, you may face multiple charges of robbery for each victim present at the time you committed a robbery. If you take numerous properties from one victim, you cannot face various robbery charges. You will only face one count of robbery, even if you took various items from one victim.
Consequences for Robbery Charges in California
The charges you face for committing a robbery offense will vary depending on whether you commit a first-degree robbery or a second-degree robbery. It is essential to understand what constitutes a first-degree robbery or a second-degree robbery.
A robbery is first-degree if the victim is a passenger or driver of a taxi, bus, streetcar, trackless trolley, subway, cable car, or any other hired means of transportation. If the robbery takes place in an inhabited house, trailer, or boat, it is a first-degree robbery. Any robbery that takes place as the victim uses an ATM or immediately after the victim uses an ATM is a first-degree robbery.
The law considers a house or a structure to be inhabited if a person is present or leaves there. The victim may have left the house or the structure intending to return later. In this case, the law still considers a structure or a home inhabited even if the victim is not physically present at the time of the robbery.
The crime of first-degree robbery is a felony under California law. Some of the typical penalties for the first-degree robbery include serving felony probation, also known as formal probation. While on probation, you have to adhere to the conditions of probation, including meeting with the probation officer regularly. You may also have to make regular visits to the probation office. Other terms of probation may include restitution of the victim and conducting community service.
The court may impose imprisonment in a state prison in California. The imprisonment period maybe three, four, or six years. Other potential consequences include payment of a hefty fine of $10,000. If you commit the crime of first-degree robbery in an occupied structure or building in concert with two or more persons, you may face enhanced imprisonment. The imprisonment period for this offense is three, six, or nine years.
Second-degree Robbery in California
Any type of robbery that does not qualify as a first-degree robbery in California is second-degree robbery. Similar to first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery is also a felony under California law. The consequences for the offense include serving felony probation. You may also serve an imprisonment of two, three, or five years in a state prison in California. The court may impose a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Counts of robbery in California depend on the number of victims and not on the items of property you illegally take. If you rob two victims, you will face two counts of robbery. However, even if you steal multiple things from one victim, you will face one count of robbery.
If certain aggravating factors are present, you may face enhanced penalties for the robbery offense. You will face enhanced penalties if the robbery results in significant bodily injury. A great bodily injury refers to any damage that is significant or substantial. The enhancement for great bodily harm is in line with the California PC 12022.7. You will face an additional and consecutive three to six years of imprisonment if the robbery leads to significant bodily injury.
If you use a gun to commit a robbery, you will face enhanced penalties. The California law imposes more extended consequences for people who use a firearm in committing a robbery. If you use a gun to execute robbery, you will get an additional ten years to your imprisonment.
Discharge of a firearm while committing robbery will attract a more extended sentence enhancement. Therefore, if you personally and intentionally fire a gun while committing robbery, you will face an additional 20 years imprisonment.
You will face a more extended sentence enhancement if the discharge of firearm results in significant bodily injury or death. You will get an additional 25 years of imprisonment if you use a gun and inflict substantial bodily injury or cause the demise of a person while committing a robbery.
Under California law, robbery is a violent felony. This means that the crime of robbery qualifies as a strike, according to the California Three Strikes Law. Committing the crime will earn you a strike on your criminal record. If you commit a subsequent felony or any other California felony, you will get twice the standard sentencing for that felony. If you get three strikes on your record, you may receive a sentence of up to 25 years or life imprisonment in the state prison of California.
Conditions of Probation
If the court recommends felony probation instead of imprisonment, you have to adhere to several terms of probation. The terms of probation often apply to the crime for which the court convicts you. For instance, while you are on probation, you should not violate any other law other than a traffic infraction.
As required by the probation terms, you may have to visit the probation officer often. Performing community service is also a common condition of probation.
Paying restitution to the victim entails reimbursing the victim for all the losses the victim may have incurred due to the robbery. Paying restitution to the victim may involve paying the victim for the property lost. If the victim suffered injuries, you might have to reimburse the victims for the medical costs incurred while seeking treatment for the damages.
If you violate the terms of probation, the probation officer may inform the judge. The judge may then convene a probation violation hearing to give the probation officer a chance to outline how you have violated the terms of probation. The judge may decide to subject you to harsher conditions of probation. The judge may also choose to revoke the probation and subject you to imprisonment.
Possible Legal Defenses for Robbery Charges in California
When the prosecutor accuses you of committing the crime of robbery, you may adopt various defense strategies to fight the charges. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can select several legal defenses to fight the robbery charges. The attorney may strive for a reduction of the charges or the dismissal of the charges altogether. Some of the common legal defenses for the crime of robbery include:
No Use of Force or Fear
The distinguishing factor between robbery and other theft crimes in California is the use of force or fear. For the prosecutor to accuse you of robbery, he/she must prove that you used fear or force to obtain property from the victim. If the prosecutor is unable to demonstrate the use of fear or force while acquiring property, he/she cannot accuse you of robbery. You may still get a conviction for another theft crime such as grand theft or petty theft. However, these theft crimes have lesser legal consequences than the crime of robbery.
Right to the Property
You may fight robbery charges by asserting that you had a belief that you had a right to the property. You may take property from a person with the understanding that the property belongs to you. In this case, you cannot face robbery charges under California law. The name for this type of defense is a claim of right defense. This defense may apply even if your belief in having the right to a particular property is unreasonable or mistaken. However, this form of defense cannot apply if you commit the crime of robbery to settle debts.
You may be a victim of mistaken identity and end up facing robbery charges while you are innocent. In most robbery cases, the victim gets an opportunity to identify the victim in a pretrial lineup. This process of identifying suspects often leads to false accusations and mistakes. With the time of the robbery, a victim may experience immense tension and confusion. Due to the tension, a victim may not be able to recall the physical attributes of the defendant. Therefore, if told to identify the defendant, it is common for victims to make a mistake.
In many cases of robberies, defendants conceal their real appearance using masks and other disguising clothing. The victims identified the defendants based on clothing and other flimsy or subjective pieces of evidence.
Your attorney will thoroughly assess the prosecutor's evidence to determine whether the prosecutor acquired the evidence using unreliable or circumstantial evidence. By pointing out the lapses in the evidence presented by the prosecutor, your attorney can point out that you should not face charges unless it is evident that you are guilty.
A False Accusation
You may point out that you are a victim of false accusations and prove that you did not commit robbery. For criminal cases like robbery in California, false accusations are common. A person may have several reasons for accusing you of robbery falsely. The actual culprit/defendant may accuse you of robbery to cover his/her guilt. A romantic partner like a spouse or a cohabitant may accuse you or robbery when the relationship turns sour. Your ex-lover may charge you due to jealousy or anger. A criminal attorney can conduct a thorough investigation to determine what happened.
Entrapment is a valid legal defense for robbery charges in California. Entrapment depends on the interaction between the defendant and the police officers before or during the alleged robbery. Entrapment may arise if the law enforcement officers use overbearing tactics or coercion to induce the defendant to commit a crime.
If you feel that there was the use of threats, intimidation, or any other form of coercion, you may fight the robbery charges on the grounds of duress. For instance, you may assert that the law enforcement officers set up a sting operation inducing you to commit the robbery. As a form of defense, you may declare that you committed the crime under duress.
Lack of Intent or Mistake of Fact
You may fight robbery charges by asserting that you had no intent to deprive the victim of the property permanently or for a significant period to make him/her miss on the enjoyment of the property.
Related Offenses to Robbery
Several crimes in California are closely associated with the crime of robbery. The prosecutor may assign charges for the associated offenses alongside robbery charges. The prosecutor may also charge you with similar crimes instead of robbery charges. Some of the related crimes include:
PC 215 Carjacking
According to California law, it is an offense to take another person's vehicle from his/her immediate presence using force or fear. In many aspects, the crime of carjacking is similar to the crime of robbery. However, in the case of a carjacking, the property involved is always a car. You may face charges for both carjacking and robbery after taking a vehicle from the possession of another person. However, according to the law, you cannot face charges for both robbery and carjacking at the same time.
Just like robbery, carjacking is a felony under California law. The consequences of carjacking include imprisonment. You may serve an imprisonment of three, five, nine years in a state prison in California.
You may face theft charges if you take another person's property without using fear or force. The type of theft charges you face will depend on the value of the property. Depending on the property value, you may face petty theft or grand theft charges. The California pc 487 outlines the crime of grand theft. On the other hand, California PC 488 describes the crime of petty theft.
If you unlawfully take property worth more than $950 from another person, you will face grand theft charges. You will also face grand theft charges if you take a car or firearm directly from the victim's person.
If you take property less than $950 and the property is not a firearm or a vehicle, you will face petty theft charges under California law. For cases involving shoplifting or pickpocketing, which do not include the use of force or fear, you will face theft charges and not robbery charges.
According to California law, petty theft is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for the offense include serving jail time, not exceeding six months. Grand theft is a wobbler under California law, and the prosecutor may assign felony or misdemeanor charges. If the prosecutor charges grand theft as a felony, the penalties include a jail sentence for sixteen months, two years, or three years. This sentence is less than the potential punishment for a robbery crime. Hence, many people accused of robbery try to have their charges reduced to theft.
The California PC 207 outlines the crime of abduction/kidnapping. If you use fear or force to move another person for a substantial distance, you may face kidnapping charges under California law. If, during a robbery, you move the victim for a significant range, you may face both robbery and kidnapping charges. For instance, you may put the victim in a car and move the victim to another location before taking his/her belongings. In this case, you would be guilty of robbery and kidnapping.
Kidnapping to commit a robbery is a severe offense in California. The defendant may face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Find a Qualified California Criminal Lawyer Near Me
If you are facing robbery charges, you should not attempt to fight the charges on your own. You require an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges since robbery is associated with harsh penalties. If you or a loved one is facing robbery charges in San Jose, We at the California Criminal Lawyer Group can help in fighting the charges. Contact us at 408-622-0204 and speak to one of our attorneys.