Robbery Laws in California – Penal Code 211 PC
The theft crime of robbery is described under California Penal Code 211. It's defined as the felonious taking of personal property in possession of another person, against their will, using force or fear.
There are two types of robbery charges in California law, including first-degree and second-degree. The penalties if convicted will depend on the type of charge and the specific circumstances of the robbery case.
PC 211 robbery is always a felony crime and not the usual theft crime “wobbler” that can be later reduced to a misdemeanor offense. Further, a robbery conviction could count as a “strike” under California's three-strikes law.
Some sentencing enhancements significantly increase the robbery penalties, such as using a firearm in the commission of the crime. In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, we will examine this law in greater detail below.
What's the Difference Between a First-Degree and Second-Degree Robbery?
In the prosecution of a PC 211 robbery case, the first question that must be answered is whether the robbery qualifies as a first or second-degree. A first-degree robbery occurs when any of the following circumstances apply:
- The victim was inside an inhabited dwelling place of residence;
- The victim was using or just completed using an automated teller machine (ATM);
- The victim was a driver or passenger in a bus, taxi, or public transportation.
Thus, a second-degree robbery includes all other forms of robbery.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove for a PC 211 Conviction?
If accused of robbery, the prosecution has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, several factors to secure a conviction. These are called the “elements of the crime” and listed under California Criminal Jury Instructions 1600 that you did all of the following acts:
- took possession of the property you didn't own;
- property was in possession of another person;
- took the property in the victim's immediate presence, against their will;
- force to fear was used to take the property or to prevent resistance;
- intent was to deprive the property owner permanently or long enough to deprive the owner of a portion of its value.
Readers should note that robbery offense only occurs when you take property directly from the victim or in their immediate presence within their control.
What Are the Penalties for Robbery?
The crime of robbery is more prevalent these days as people are being caught on a video camera, and police are obtaining licenses and tracking the vehicle down. They will go to great lengths to track robbers down in LA county because it is a grave crime on the political radar.
Regarding what someone is facing if they're charged with robbery, the charge range is 2, 4, and 6 years in state prison. It is a presumptive prison crime. In LA, prosecutors and judges assume that someone will be sent to jail if charged with robbery unless their attorney can show unusual circumstances surrounding the robbery.
One example of unusual circumstances that I've been successful with is an Estes robbery, where someone is stealing from a store, and they're not using any force or fear at the time of the stealing, but the force or fear is being used in their escape.
If that occurs, they could still be charged with robbery. Still, many times, especially if they have no criminal record, no weapon was used, or nobody was hurt – we can convince the prosecutors and judges to lessen that crime to something less than a robbery.
You typically face a prison term of 6 years on an average robbery charge. There are other enhancements, though, that goes hand-in-hand with robbery. For example:
- if you use a gun during a robbery, you could be facing an additional ten years in prison. This is Penal Code 12022.53 “10-20-life use a gun and you're done.”
- if you are a gang member, you could be facing an additional ten years on top of that if you use a gun and are a gang member and commit a robbery. This is Penal Code 186.22 PC gang enhancement.
- If the victim sustained a great bodily injury during the commission of the robbery crime, you could be facing an additional six years in prison as defined by California Penal Code 12022.7, great physical injury enhancement.
Of course, there is a new Los Angeles District Attorney as I write this post that has vowed to strike gun and gang enhancements in crimes like robbery. In some of these cases, this is happening; it's not happening in some cases.
What you see happening, at least from my perspective, is that even though policies are being instituted, prosecutors, underneath the head prosecutor, often do not carry out his directives.
Is It Possible to Get Robbery Charges Reduced?
If you're charged with robbery, you may get a probation sentence if your attorney can convince the prosecutors to lessen the charge or even persuade a judge to lessen the charge.
To do this, some of the factors being used are that you don't have any prior robberies on your record or prior strikes on your record. Also, if you did not use a gun, that would undoubtedly be a factor in your favor.
If you didn't use any weapon, that would be a factor in your favor. So, it just depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case whether or not you're facing prison time versus a probation sentence where you could be facing anywhere from no time in jail up to a year in the county jail.
Other penalties are possible, like Cal Trans, community service, and probation, where you have to report to the probation department. Sometimes you can get a joint suspended, where prison time is suspended over your head.
You're placed on probation with specific terms and conditions. As long as you don't violate those terms and conditions, you wouldn't get whatever prison sentence is over your head.
What Are the Related Crimes?
- Penal Code 215 PC – carjacking,
- Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft,
- Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,
- Penal Code 207 PC – kidnapping,
- Penal Code 459 PC – burglary.
Real PC 211 Robbery Case Example in Los Angeles, CA
When it comes to robberies, you'll want to have some good strategies to defend the case. One result that I had that emphasizes some of the methods utilized is that I had a client charged with robbery under California Penal Code 211.
It was a situation where multiple robberies were occurring, and the police had used a sketch artist of the alleged robber. Ultimately, my client ended up getting arrested and charged with the robbery in the San Fernando Valley. He was charged with like five robberies. Whoever this individual was committing these robberies was picking the same type of store and committing the robberies. Somehow somebody was identifying my client as the robber.
One of the biggest problems for the prosecutors in the case was that the robber had — according to all of the witnesses — a tattoo on his neck, and my client did not have a tattoo on his neck. This is just an example of why, if he doesn't have a tattoo on his neck, would the prosecutors prosecute this case?
That was the chief piece of evidence. It kept coming up repeatedly as I was cross-examining the witness and pointing out that my client had no tattoo on his neck. It made no sense that a robber would paint a tattoo on their neck to commit robberies. So, ultimately, this case was done in front of a jury. It didn't even get to the jury. Before the case got to the jury, the judge dismissed the case.
So, sometimes the prosecutors file a case, and the police arrest somebody, and they don't have good evidence in a case. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the person gets off. I have many clients yelling and screaming, and I hear a lot of people yelling and screaming that they're innocent.
There's no way I should get convicted. The reality is that you could get convicted. If a jury finds you guilty, you're going to get convicted. The only thing that will separate whether you will be found guilty or not guilty is your criminal lawyer.
Seeking a Lesser Charge to Robbery
In a robbery situation, we're probably going to be trying to get another charge other than a robbery, like a grand theft person — which is not a strike. You don't have to do it 85% of the time. You're usually not looking at the prison for that type of crime. Because for robbery cases, you're looking at the prison and getting a strike on your record. You're looking at serving 85% of the time. No one wants to have a robbery conviction on their record for the rest of their life.
So, even if you have to take a robbery conviction, you don't want to go to prison for six years, and if there's a weapon used, that makes things even worse. We've got some great results in robbery cases, whether trying or winning it.
Suppose that's appropriate and makes sense under your circumstances because there are problems with the prosecutor's case. Suppose, on the other hand, it doesn't make sense. In that case, we will try to negotiate a favorable resolution for you, taking into account your life, your family, your history, and your version of events related to the case.
What Are the Best Defenses for Penal Code 211?
There is a wide range of legal defenses to challenge California Penal Code 211 robbery charges, including:
- You didn't use force or fear to take possession of the property.
- Insufficient Evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,
- False accusation,
- Mistaken identity.
The use of force or fear is often a crucial factor in robbery cases. If the prosecutor can't prove this essential point, you can't be found guilty of robbery but might still face reduced charges with lesser penalties.
Perhaps we can make a reasonable argument that force or fear was not used to take possession of someone's property. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, or your actions were misinterpreted. Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity and were wrongfully arrested. Maybe the accuser was motivated by anger, revenge, or jealousy.
Negotiating with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a case dismissal might be possible. Further, through prefiling negotiations with law enforcement detectives and the filing deputies in the District Attorney's Office, we might be able to persuade them to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.”
If you or a family member were charged with the serious felony offense of robbery, contact our experienced legal team to review the details and legal options.
So, you have to get somebody who knows what they're doing, has been down this road before, has had success, and has had wins in a robbery case. What I have you do in these robbery charges, I have you come in. We sit down, and we talk about it. The consequences of a robbery conviction can be severe.
We look at the evidence that the prosecutors are claiming they have against you, and we decide whether or not this is a case worth fighting or this is a case where we need to work out some plea bargain. That often happens in criminal defense where the prosecutors have the goods on the person, and we're doing damage control.
You've come to the right place if you or a loved one is charged with robbery in Los Angeles County. Pick up the phone. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I've been defending people like you for 30 years. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case consultation by phone at (213) 542-0979 or by filling out the contact form.