Robbery is the crime you commit when you take property belonging to another person using force, violence, or fear. For your actions to fit the definition of robbery, you must have taken the property from the immediate possession of the alleged victim. Because the crime involves using violence or force against the victim, it is considered a serious felony, and a conviction under California PC 211 will attract severe legal consequences.
You risk spending a long time behind bars and paying hefty fines if you are convicted. Additionally, you may have to deal with the long-term consequences of having a felony conviction on your record. If you or a loved one faces a criminal charged with robbery, it is paramount that you enlist the services of a skilled criminal lawyer. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will offer you the legal insight you need to navigate your criminal robbery charges in Riverside, CA, and ensure the best possible outcome.
Overview of Robbery in California
California PC 211 defines robbery as the crime of taking another person's personal property. For this statute, the property could be taken from the immediate presence of the alleged victim or while the item is directly attached to them. Either way, the crime of robbery is severely prosecuted, and a conviction may result in severe consequences. Before proceeding to prove your guilt for violating PC 211, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
You Took Property Belonging to Someone Else
You satisfy this first element of robbery when you gain possession of something that does not belong to you or move the item a distance away from the owner. It is essential to understand that no specific distance is specified for moving something. Moving a short distance away from its owner could attract these charges.
The Item you took was in Another Person’s Possession.
For robbery, possession does not mean that the alleged victim was holding the item you took. Possession in such cases could either be actual or just mere control of the item. Additionally, the victim does not have to be the actual owner of the property. For example, when you take an item from a store in the presence of an employee, the employee is considered to have had possession when you committed the crime.
You took the property from the victim's Immediate Presence
You can only be charged with robbery if you took the property in question is the victim's immediate presence. An item is considered in the immediate presence if it is within the person's physical control.
The Alleged Victim was against your Actions
Lack of consent is a critical element in prosecuting theft crimes. Therefore, the prosecution must prove that you took the property against another person's will. However, it is crucial to understand that consent given through threats or coercion will not be considered in this case.
You Used Force or Fear to Commit the Crime
Use of force or fear is the main characteristic of robbery, and it distinguishes PC 211 from other theft charges. Physical force or threats must have been used to commission the crime for this statute. If the charges are based on the use of fear, the prosecution must prove that you threatened to cause injuries to the victim or their families if they failed to comply with your demands.
However, it is essential to understand that sight touching like the one during the pickpocketing crime cannot suffice under this statute.
You Acted intending to Deprive the Owner of the Property
Robbery is a crime of specific intent. Therefore, you can only be found guilty of violating PC 211 if you intend to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of the property.
Sentencing and Punishment for Violating California PC 211
The nature and severity of the penalties you face after a robbery conviction depend significantly on the degree of crime you are recharged. Your crime is classified as first degree under the following circumstances:
- The crime occurs in an inhabited boat, house, or trailer
- Robbery occurs as soon as the victim uses an ATM
- The victim of the crime is a passenger of a taxi, car, subway, or hired transportation
The potential consequences of a first-degree robbery conviction include:
- A prison sentence of three to six years. Your prison sentence could increase to up to nine years if you committed the crime in concert with two or more people.
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Felony probation. Felony probation is always an alternative to jail time and may be available for first-time offenders. If you are sentenced to probation, you may be required to adhere to a wide range of probation conditions.
Any other form of robbery that does not fit the definition for first-degree falls under the second-degree category. A conviction for second-degree robbery is punishable by the following robbery penalties:
- Up to five years in state prison
- Fine that do not exceed $10,000
- Felony Probation
In California, you could be charged with multiple counts of robbery. A count of robbery is determined by the number of victims and not the number of items you took. Therefore, if you used fear or force against two people, you will be charged with two counts of robbery.
Sentencing Enhancements for Robbery in California
Robbery is a serious offense, and in addition to these penalties, you could be charged with the following enhancements that could significantly change the severity of your sentence:
- Use of a firearm. If you used a gun to commit the crime of robbery, you could receive an additional prison sentence ranging between ten years and life if you used the firearm to cause serious bodily injury to another person. In addition to the enhanced penalties, you will lose your rights to use, own, or purchase a gun in California.
- California Three Strikes Law. Robbery is considered to be a violent felony under California law. Therefore, a conviction is a strike in your record under California Three Strikes Law. If you have a felony conviction and face robbery charges, you will receive twice the standard sentence for the offense. If the robbery is your third strike, you could face a prison semitone of twenty-five years to life.
- Felony-Murder Rule. If you caused the death of another person during the commission of the crime, you could face a sentence enhancement under the felony murder rule.
- Great bodily injury. Significant bodily injury is a sentence enhancement that seeks severe punishment for individuals who cause injury to others when committing violent crimes. If another person suffered substantial injury from your robbery, you could face additional penalties under California PC 12022.7. You could face an additional three to six years in state prison with this enhancement.
- Gang enhancement. California law is strict on individuals who commit crimes to aid street gang activities. If the prosecution can prove that you committed the robbery to benefit a gang, you will automatically face a ten-year prison sentence and the penalties for robbery.
Defenses against California PC 211 Charges
Robbery is a serious offense under California law, and a conviction could attract life-changing consequences. Fortunately, facing an arrest and charges under this statute id not guarantee that you will be convicted. With the guidance of a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, you can build a strong defense against the case based on the following defenses:
No use of Force of Fear to Take property
The use of fear or force is a crucial element for robbery. When proving your guilt under PC 211, the prosecutor must clarify that you used force or fear to take away property belonging to another person. If the prosecution cannot prove this element, the robbery charges will not stick. However, you may be convicted of another theft crime like grand theft or petty theft, which does not require this element.
You are a Victim of a Mistaken Identity
In most cases, robbery defendants are charged after a witness's identification in a pretrial lineup. Since most theft crimes occur during the night or with a perpetrator disguised in masks, it is common for mistakes to arise at the identification leading to cases of mistaken identity. A skilled attorney can help you evaluate the prosecutor's case to determine whether it is solely based on circumstantial evidence. You create reasonable doubt in the prosecutor's case and give you a chance to avoid a conviction for the crime.
Reasonable Belief that the Property Belonged to You
If you have an honest perception that a particular piece of property or item belongs to you in another person's possession, taking the property may fail to satisfy the requirement for robbery. A claim of right is often a valid defense for many theft crimes under California law. Even when you were mistaken in your belief, the claim of right can be used. However, it is essential to understand that you cannot present this defense if you tool another person's property because they owed you a debt.
Due to the severity and potential consequences of a robbery conviction, the issues of false accusations are not uncommon. There are several reasons why a person could falsely accuse you of such a crime, including anger, jealousy, or revenge. Additionally, the actual perpetrator of the offense could try to hide their guilt by blaming the crime on you.
Considerations for Defense against Robbery in California
In addition to the above defense strategies, your defense attorney could highlight the following concerns as effective in your defense:
- Affirmative defense. One of the most straightforward arguments in a robbery case is the prosecutor's lack of enough evidence to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes, your attorney could advise you to admit taking the property but give explanations.
- Proving innocence. The prosecution must establish all the elements of crime before securing a conviction against you. In your defense, you do not have the responsibility of proving your innocence. Creating a reasonable doubt in the prosecutor's case is enough to avoid a conviction or have a reduced sentence.
- If you were intoxicated when you committed the crime, you could raise voluntary or involuntary intoxication as a part of an affirmative defense. A person under drug or alcohol influence lacks the necessary mental capacity to form a specific intent required for the crime.
- If you were coerced into committing the crime with threats of severe bodily injury or death, you could be eligible to present the duress defense against your robbery changes. While coercion can be a strong defense, it is challenging to prove. Before accepting the defense to reduce your charges or dismiss them, the court could consider your ability to avoid committing the crime without risking severe injury or death.
Offenses Related to Robbery under California Law
California PC 211 is similar to some theft crimes in its elements, and the prosecutors can charge these offenses alongside or instead of this crime. Some of the common crimes which are related to robbery include:
Grand theft is a crime that occurs when you unlawfully take away money or property belonging to another person whose value is $950 or more. Any activity involving taking something without the owner's consent may attract grand theft charges if the item's value meets the criteria for the crime. The most significant difference between grand theft and robbery is that for robbery, it must be clear that you used force against the alleged victim, while for rad theft, that requirement is not necessary.
There are several forms of grand theft under California law:
- Theft by larceny. The most common form of grand theft is the one committed by larceny. This means you take away property without the owner's permission and hold it temporarily or permanently.
- Theft by pretense. If you trick another person so you can take away something that belonged to them, you could face an arrest ad criminal charges for grand theft by pretense.
- Theft by embezzlement. You commit a crime of grand theft by embezzlement if you use property or money that has been entrusted to you by the owner for personal benefit.
Depending on the circumstances f your case, grand theft could attract a misdemeanor or a felony conviction. As a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. A felony conviction, on the other hand, attracts a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine not exceeding $10,000. Whether you face charges for robbery or grand theft, you will require the guidance of a skilled attorney.
Burglary is the act of entering a building or structure to commit a theft crime or another felony offense. If you entered a property or building and used force to take away property belonging to another person, you could be charged with either robbery or burglary.
Burglary I charged under California PC 459 and can either be in the first or second degree. The main difference between first and second-degree burglary is that first-degree burglary occurs when one enters a trailer coach, residence, or other inhabited property. Entry into any other building will then fall under second-degree burglary.
In the first degree, burglary is always prosecuted as a felony. On the other hand, second-degree burglary is a wobbler. When charged as a felony, violation of PC 459 attracts a sentence of up to six years in state prison, $10,000 in fines, and a strike under California's three-strikes law. The penalties for a misdemeanor burglary conviction include jail time for one year and a fine of $1,000.
Receiving Stolen Property
While the crime of receiving stolen property is as severe as theft, the elements of this crime are more complex. Under California PC 496(a), you can be charged with receiving stolen property if you purchase, concealed, hold or receive an item obtained through theft or extortion. Before you can face a conviction under this statute, the prosecution must prove that:
- You bought, received, or aided in the transfer of a stolen item
- When you acted, you knew that the goods had been stolen or obtained through extortion
The crime of receiving stolen property is a wobbler. If the property value is $950 or less, you will face a misdemeanor conviction and receive the following punishment:
- Custody in county jail for a period not exceeding one year
- Summary probation which could be an alternative to jail time
- Court fines and assessment fees of up to$1,000
When charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:
- A maximum prison sentence of three years
- Felony probation
- A maximum of $10,000 in fines
In addition to the above penalties, receiving stolen property is considered a crime of moral turpitude and thus could attract negative immigration consequences such as deportation or being marked inadmissible.
California PC 518 defines extortion as a crime when you use threats or force to compel another individual to hand tier property or money to you. The most significant difference between extortion and a robbery is that the victim does not consent to you taking their property for robbery. In extortion, you coerce the victim into doing what you want.
During a prosecution for extortion in California, the following elements of the crime must be clear:
- You threatened the alleged victim with serious injury, exposure of a secret, or accused them of a crime.
- When you made the threats or used force, you intended to coerce the victim into consenting to give their property or money to you.
- As a result of the threat, the victim consented to your demands and gave you the property or money.
A violation of PC 518 is always charged as a felony. A conviction for the offense is punishable by up to four years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The crime of carjacking involves taking another person's car from their immediate presence by force, violence, or fear. Carjacking is similar to robbery, with the only difference being the nature of the stolen item. Before a conviction for carjacking under California PC 215, the following elements of the crime must be clear:
- Another person owned a vehicle
- You took the car from the immediate presence of the owner or a passenger
- You did not have consent to take the vehicle
- You acted with an intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle's enjoyment
Carjacking is always charged as a felony in California. After a conviction, you risk facing a prison sentence of up to nine years and fines that do not exceed $10,000. Prison time at the sentencing for this crime could increase under the following circumstances:
- A victim suffered an injury. If during the commission of the crime, you caused injuries to another person, you could face an additional prison sentence of three to six years.
- Use of a firearm. If you used a gun to commit the crime of carjacking, you could face a sentence enhancement of up to twenty-five years.
- You committed the crime to aid gang activity. If you are convicted of carjacking done to benefit a street gang, you will face a mandatory prison sentence of up to fifteen years.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When you use force or fear to take away personal property belonging to another person, you could face an arrest and criminal charges for robbery under CPC 211. A conviction for robbery has serious consequences, and the punishment you receive may depend on the degree of the crime you are charged with. Fortunately, not all the arrests under this statute result in a criminal conviction. By seeking the guidance of a skilled criminal lawyer, you can understand the nature of your charges and devise a strategy to fight the case.
At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we work hard to ensure that you have every advantage that you are entitled to under the law. Our skilled attorneys will help you gather the necessary evidence to build a strong defense and avoid a robbery conviction. If you or your loved one faces criminal robbery charges in Riverside, CA, you will need our legal expertise by your side. Call us today at 951-946-6366 to discuss the details of your case.