As per California Penal Code 211, robbery is a serious felony involving forcefully taking someone's property. It carries imprisonment and other legal consequences. Simply put, robbery is unlawfully taking another person's belongings while inducing fear or harm. It differs from theft in that it includes personal threats or violence.

Robbery violates individuals' rights, jeopardizes public safety, and undermines community security. Victims could suffer lasting psychological and emotional effects. The legal system strongly opposes this criminal behavior. You thus need an experienced criminal defense attorney to challenge the robbery charges.

Anaheim attorneys at California Criminal Lawyer Group examine robbery's specific elements, penalties, and potential defenses.

Robbery Under California Law

Robbery occurs when personal property is taken without permission from someone in their immediate presence, against their will, using force or fear. The legal definition of robbery in California revolves around proving specific "elements of the crime." These elements include:

  • Taking property that is not yours.
  • The property being in the possession of someone else.
  • Taking the property from the person or their immediate presence.
  • Taking the property against the person's will.
  • Using fear or force to take the property or prevent resistance.
  • Intending to permanently deprive the owner of the property or significantly reduce its value.

Let us delve into a closer examination of the terms used in this legal definition.

Taking Another Person’s Property

 Under Penal Code 211, "taking property that is not yours" refers to wrongfully seizing someone else's belongings without permission. It involves the unauthorized control of another person's property, emphasizing its unlawful nature as a critical element of robbery.

Taking property not belonging to you in a robbery usually requires physically moving said property. You must have taken the property from its original location and carried it away. Moving the property through a short distance is crucial in establishing the taking element in a robbery offense.

In Another’s Possession

Under California robbery law, possession of property does not always mean physically touching it. It includes:

  • Actual possession — Refers to the direct physical control or immediate physical presence of an individual over a particular item or piece of property. It involves the person holding, touching, or having physical custody of the object. In the context of California robbery law, actual possession means having hands-on control over or immediate physical contact with the property in question. It requires a tangible and direct connection between the person and the item being possessed.
  • Constructive possession — Refers to a situation where an individual does not have physical control or direct contact with the property but has the ability and intent to exercise control over it. It is a legal concept that recognizes a person's ownership or control rights over an item, even if they are not physically holding or touching it.

Under constructive possession, a person could have control over or the right to control the property due to their relationship, authority, or access to it. This can include situations where the property is in a person's vicinity, for example, in their home or car, or when they can determine how the property is used or accessed.

Additionally, the robbery victim does not have to own the property. It is enough if they have actual or constructive possession.

From their Person or Immediate Presence

 From the person or their immediate presence means that the property is taken either directly from the victim or from a location that is very close to them, within their immediate reach or control.

In simpler terms, the property is taken from the person or from a location so close to them that it is considered within their immediate vicinity. This element emphasizes the proximity between the person and the property during the robbery.

For example, taking someone’s belongings directly from their hand would be considered taking the belongings from their person. Likewise, if you snatch an item from a table right in front of them, that would be regarded as taking it from their immediate presence.

This element aims to highlight the intimate connection between the victim and their belongings, ensuring that the act of taking occurs in a close and immediate context.

Against the Victim’s Will

 "Against the property owner's will" means taking the property without the owner's consent or permission. In other words, it is done in a manner that goes against what the owner desires or approves.

Simply put, taking another person’s property against his/her will means you are doing so without his/her agreement or authorization. You are acting in a way that disregards his/her wishes and goes against what he/she wants to happen with their belongings.

This element emphasizes the importance of voluntary consent in property transactions and underscores that the owner did not willingly relinquish possession or control of the property.

Use of Force or Fear

 PC 211 robbery is distinct from other theft crimes because it always involves "force or fear." According to Penal Code 212, force refers to physical force. On the other hand, fear encompasses fear of injury to the victim, a family member, the victim's property, or someone else present during the incident.

It is worth noting that California courts have ruled that force or fear is considered to have been used, and a robbery is deemed to have taken place if the defendant drugs the victim and takes their property. However, the slight and harmless touching that occurs during pickpocketing does not qualify as "force or fear." Therefore, while a pickpocket would not be guilty of robbery, they could still be held accountable for another theft crime.

Intent to Deprive the Owner of His/Her Property

In robbery cases, the "intent to deprive the owner of the property" is crucial. It signifies that you had a clear purpose and desire to:

  • Permanently strip the owner of their ownership rights or
  • Deprive the owner of a significant value of his/her property.

In simpler terms, if you intend to keep the property for yourself, sell it, or prevent the owner from recovering it, it demonstrates your intention to deny the owner's rightful control and possession over the property.

This element highlights that your objective as the defendant goes beyond temporary control or borrowing. You aimed to permanently deprive the owner of their rights or cause substantial harm.

Establishing the intent to deprive the property owner is vital to proving the robbery offense. It underscores the deliberate and unlawful nature of the act, distinguishing it from actions involving only temporary possession or borrowing.

     a) First-Degree Robbery

First-degree robbery under PC 211 is a more severe form of robbery with specific circumstances that elevate its seriousness. First-degree robbery involves the following:

  • The robbery occurs in a place primarily designed for overnight accommodations, for example, a hotel, trailer, motel, or inhabited dwelling.
  • The robbery victim performs their duties as an employee of a financial institution, for example, a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association.
  • The robbery occurs while the victim uses or withdraws cash from an ATM.
  • The victim is in a vehicle operated by a driver for hire, like a taxi, rideshare, or similar transportation service.

If any of these circumstances are present during the commission of a robbery, it is considered first-degree robbery. First-degree robbery carries more severe penalties than second-degree robbery due to the increased danger and potential harm.

     b) Second-Degree Robbery

Second-degree robbery refers to the less severe form of robbery. Second-degree robbery encompasses robbery cases that do not meet the specific criteria for first-degree robbery.

In second-degree robbery, the circumstances do not fall under the particular circumstances that classify it as first-degree robbery. This means that the crime occurs in a location other than those primarily designed for overnight accommodations, inhabited dwellings, financial institutions, or during the use of an ATM, or it does not involve a driver for hire.

While second-degree robbery is still a serious offense, it carries comparatively less severe penalties than first-degree robbery due to the absence of those specific aggravating factors.

Estes Robbery

Estes robbery, also known as the Estes Rule or Estes Doctrine, refers to a legal principle established by the California Supreme Court in the 1983 case of People v. Estes.

Under the Estes robbery rule, when a theft occurs from a merchant's premises, and the thief uses force or fear to retain possession of the stolen property while fleeing, the crime can be charged as robbery rather than a lesser offense like theft or burglary. This rule applies even if force or fear is used after the thief has left the premises while still in immediate pursuit.

The Estes robbery doctrine recognizes the need to protect merchants and deter theft by allowing for enhanced penalties when force or fear is employed to facilitate the escape with stolen property. It aims to prevent criminals from using force or threats to avoid apprehension and retain control over stolen items.

Penalties if Convicted of Robbery Under Penal Code 211

First-degree robbery is a felony offense with specific penalties and consequences. If convicted, you could face:

  • Felony probation, which is a period of supervision instead of serving time in prison.
  • Imprisonment in a California state prison for a term of 3, 4, or 6 years.
  • A possible fine of up to $10,000.

If the first-degree robbery occurs in an inhabited structure and involves the collaboration of two or more individuals, the potential prison sentence can be heightened to:

  • 3, 6, or 9 years.

These penalties are outlined under PC 211 and serve as guidelines, but they can be influenced by various factors, such as:

  • Aggravating circumstances,
  • Prior criminal history, or
  • The use of weapons.

Second-degree robbery carries felony penalties, which can include the following:

  • Felony probation.
  • Imprisonment in state prison for 2, 3, or 5 years.
  • A potential fine of up to $10,000.

     a) Penalties for Robberies Involving Multiple Victims

 The determination of robbery counts in California depends more on the number of individuals affected than the quantity of property taken.

For example, if force or fear is used against two people to take one person's wallet, you could be charged with two counts of California robbery.

However, if you take multiple items from a single person, for example, a piece of jewelry and a cell phone, you will be charged with one count of robbery.

     b) Sentence Enhancements

Aside from the earlier penalties, additional sentence enhancements can increase the consequences of a conviction for Penal Code 211. These include:

Great Bodily Injury Enhancement Under Penal Code 12022.7

If you cause a person to suffer significant physical harm, referred to as "great bodily injury," during the commission of a robbery, you could face this enhancement. It can result in an additional 3 to 6 years added to your sentence for robbery.

Use of a Gun

 Penal Code 12022.53 in California is referred to as the "10-20-life use a gun, and you are done" law, which imposes severe penalties for using a firearm in certain felonies, like robbery.

Under this law:

Using a gun during specified offenses, for example, robbery, leads to enhanced sentences. They are as follows:

  • Personally using a firearm during the offense carries a minimum sentence of 10 years.
  • Discharging a firearm increases the minimum sentence to 20 years.
  • If the firearm causes great bodily injury or death, the minimum sentence becomes 25 years to life in prison.

These additional sentences are served consecutively on top of the underlying offense penalties.

The law aims to deter firearm use in serious crimes and ensure stricter punishment for offenders.

A Strike Per Caliofniran’s Three-Strikes Law

 California's three-strikes law has implications for robbery offenses.

Under this law:

  • A conviction for robbery can count as a "strike" on your criminal record.
  • If you have two prior serious or violent felony convictions (qualifying as strikes), a third strike for robbery can result in a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
  • The Three-Strikes Law aims to impose harsher penalties on repeat offenders and serves as a deterrent against committing further crimes.

Defenses You Can Assert in a Robbery Case

With the help of your attorney, you can raise the right defense to challenge the robbery charges against you. Here is a look at some of the common defense strategies used in robbery cases:

     a) Lack of Fear or Force

The lack of force or fear defense contests the presence of physical force or fear in a robbery case. Defense attorneys assert that there was no actual or threatened force or fear during the incident. The attorneys also contend that the alleged act fails to meet the legal requirements for robbery.

Supporting evidence for this defense includes:

  • Witnesses can testify to the lack of force or fear during the incident.
  • Video evidence showing the absence of force or fear during the alleged robbery.
  • Demonstrating that the alleged victim did not sustain injuries or resist the supposed robbery can support the lack of force or fear argument.
  • Presenting statements or admissions from the alleged victim or other parties involved that indicate the absence of force or fear during the incident.

By gathering and presenting this evidence, you can strengthen your defense. You will raise reasonable doubt regarding the presence of force or fear in the alleged robbery, potentially leading to a favorable outcome in your case.

     b) Claim of Right

The claim of right to the property defense asserts that you had a genuine belief that you had a legal claim or right to the property in question, which can serve. It involves demonstrating that you believed you had a valid ownership interest, consent, or other legal justification for taking the property.

You will successfully prove your claim if the following are true:

  • Good faith belief — This shows that you genuinely believed you had a legitimate claim or right to the property based on a valid ownership interest, consent, or other legal justification.
  • Reasonable belief — Proves that your belief in the claim of right was reasonable under the circumstances. This means that an ordinary person in your situation would have held the same belief.
  • Open and notorious — Establish that you openly and notoriously asserted your claim of right to the property, making it known to others involved in the incident.
  • No intent to permanently deprive — Demonstrate that you did not intend to deny the owner of their property permanently but sought to assert your right or ownership temporarily.

Successfully proving a claim of right to property can result in the dismissal or reduction of the robbery charges, as it challenges the element of wrongful intent necessary for a conviction.

     c) You Were Falsely Accused

The "falsely accused" defense challenges the accuracy and credibility of the accusations made against an individual in a robbery case. This defense asserts that the defendant is innocent and has been wrongly implicated or falsely accused of committing the crime. It aims to cast doubt on the evidence and testimony presented by the prosecution, showing that the accusations are unfounded or based on mistaken identity, unreliable witnesses, or fabricated evidence.

People falsely accuse others of robbery for various reasons. Some include:

  • Your accuser could have personal motives or a grudge against you and uses the false accusation to retaliate or harm your reputation.
  • The accuser, who could be the actual perpetrator of the robbery, falsely accuses you to shift suspicion away from themselves and avoid being caught.
  • Your accuser could misunderstand or misinterpret an event, leading them to believe that you were involved in the robbery mistakenly.
  • It is possible that your accuser was coerced, manipulated, or influenced by external factors. These include persuasive individuals or law enforcement to make a false accusation against you.
  • The accuser could have ulterior motives, including seeking insurance claims, financial compensation, or framing you to benefit financially from the false accusation.
  • In certain cases, individuals with psychological or emotional issues make false accusations either to gain attention or due to delusions or false memories.

The defense team will work to uncover inconsistencies, contradictions, or alternative explanations that support your innocence and undermine the credibility of the prosecution's case. They will present alibi evidence, witness testimony, surveillance footage, or other evidence to demonstrate that you were not involved in the alleged robbery.

The "falsely accused" defense aims to secure an acquittal or reduce the charges against the defendant based on the lack of credible evidence supporting their guilt.

     d) You are a Victim of Mistaken Identity

The mistaken identity defense in robbery cases involves asserting that you were wrongly identified as the perpetrator of the crime. You argue that there has been incorrect identification or confusion regarding your involvement in the robbery. This defense aims to cast doubt on the accuracy and reliability of the identification made by the witnesses or evidence presented against you.

By presenting evidence, including alibi witnesses, surveillance footage, or inconsistencies in witness statements, you seek to establish that you were not the person who committed the robbery.

Several factors can contribute to mistaken identity in criminal cases, including robbery cases. Some of these factors include:

  • Witness perception and memory — Witnesses could have limited or inaccurate recollections of the event due to various factors, for example, stress, fear, distractions, or the passage of time. They could misidentify or incorrectly recall the appearance of the perpetrator.
  • Cross-racial identification — Research has shown that some people have difficulties accurately identifying individuals of a different race or ethnicity than their own. This can lead to misidentifications if the witness and the perpetrator belong to different racial or ethnic groups.
  • Lineup or photo array procedures — Flawed lineup procedures, suggestive techniques, or biased instructions given to witnesses during identification processes can affect their choices and lead to mistaken identifications. For example, if a lineup includes a suspect who stands out somehow, it influences the witness to choose that individual even if they are not the actual perpetrator.
  • Stress and trauma — The high-stress nature of a robbery incident can impact a witness's ability to perceive and remember details accurately. The traumatic experience could affect their cognitive processes, leading to errors in identification.
  • Unreliable or insufficient evidence — In some cases, the evidence presented by the prosecution could be inconsistent, incomplete, or lacking sufficient corroboration. This can create doubts about the accuracy of the identification and contribute to a mistaken identity defense.

The specific factors contributing to mistaken identity vary from case to case. Thoroughly examining the evidence and witness testimonies is crucial in establishing this defense.

Contact a Anaheim Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you are facing robbery charges in Anaheim, get help from experienced criminal defense lawyers at the California Criminal Lawyer Group. Specializing in robbery cases, our skilled attorneys will protect your rights and build a strong defense strategy. Do not face these charges alone. Schedule a consultation today by contacting us at 714-766-0965 to discuss your case and secure the necessary aggressive representation.