Criminal statutes often define robbery differently and assign different punishment depending on the seriousness of the offense. Robbery under PC 211 carries felony penalties. The precise consequence of a robbery conviction depends on whether you committed robbery of the first degree or of the second degree. A California robbery is considered robbery of the first degree if it is:
- Robbery of any driver or passenger on a bus, taxi streetcar, subway, cable car, etc.,
- Robbery that takes place in an inhabited structure, or
- Robbery of any person who has just used an ATM or is still in the vicinity of the ATM.
First-degree robbery leads to a prison sentence of between three and nine years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree robbery is two, three, or five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Robbery is a “strike” offense within the meaning of the California three strikes law.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove in a Robbery Case?
- The defendant took property that was not his/her own;
- The property was taken from another person’s possession and immediate
- The property was taken against the person’s will;
- The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person
from resisting; AND
- When the defendant used force or fear to take the property, he/she intended to
deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession
for so an extended period that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of
the value or enjoyment of the property.
To parse the language of this definition of robbery, it is necessary to clarify a few of the
terms and phrases.
- Taking of property: This requires more than just possessing the property, the property
also must be moved by the accused even if it is only to a miniscule degree.
- Immediate presence or possession: Because the statute refers to possession rather than
ownership, a patron or employee can be a victim of robbery in a convenience store
robbery. The victim must have either actual or constructive possession of the
property. The property must be within range for the victim to control, inspect or
reach for the property.
- Against the alleged victim’s will: This simply means that the victim cannot have
consented to the accused taking of the property.
- Fear or force: This standard only requires that the degree of force or fear be sufficient
that the victim complies.
Defenses to a Charge of Robbery
- Absence of force or fear: If no force or fear is used to take the property, the offense is
not a robbery. However, another offense might be charged depending on the facts.
- Misidentification: An eyewitness might incorrectly identify the accused, so it is
necessary to challenge the identification and search for other witnesses.
- No intention to keep/take property: While you might use force or fear for some
purpose other than to take the property of another, this is not sufficient intent to
constitute robbery even if you end up keeping the property. If you use force to throw
someone out of your home, you cannot be found to have committed robbery because
the person leaves his or her backpack. Again, this does not constitute robbery even if
you decide not to return the backpack.
- Honest claim of right: If you honestly believe that you own or have a right of
possession of the property, this is a legitimate defense to robbery. All that is required
is that you have a subjective belief that you have a right to the property even if that
belief is not reasonable.
Whether you are merely the target of an investigation or you have been formally charged with a crime, the consequences of a conviction can turn your life upside down. If you have been arrested, you should immediately assert your right to a criminal defense attorney; do not talk to the police or the prosecutor without your lawyer. Early intervention by skilled criminal defense lawyer, Sanford Horowitz, means you have someone on your side, protecting your constitutional rights and building an effective defense strategy.