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Defending Robbery Charges in California

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Jun 12, 2021

Review of Penal Code 211 PC Robbery Charges and Defenses

The serious felony crime of robbery is defined under California Penal Code 211. This statute describes robbery as the felonious taking of personal property in possession of someone, from their person or immediate presence, against their will, by means of force or fear.  

Robbery Laws in California - Penal Code 211 PC
PC 211 felony robbery charges require the use of force or fear to take possession of someone's property.

There are two types of robbery charges under California law, including first or second degree, discussed below.

The penalties will depend on the type of charge and the specific circumstances of the robbery. 

Under California law, robbery is always a felony offense and not the typical theft crime “wobbler” than can be later reduced to a misdemeanor. 

Additionally, a PC 211 robbery conviction will typically count as a “strike” on your criminal record under California's three-strikes law

It's also worth noting there are some sentencing enhancements that could significantly increase the penalties for a PC 211 robbery, such as using a firearm in the commission of the crime.  

An experienced criminal defense lawyer could use a variety of strategies in an attempt to obtain the best possible outcome on the Penal Code 211 robbery charges. Some common defenses include:

  • No force or fear used to take property;
  • Mistaken identity;
  • False allegation.

Defending on the circumstances, we might be able to make a reasonable argument that no force or fear was used to take the personal property.

This article will focus on the most common robbery scenario where the robber is unarmed and the victim didn't sustain any injuries.

For more detailed information, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a legal analysis below.

First-Degree vs Second-Degree Robbery

In the criminal prosecution of PC 211 robbery case, the first question is whether the robbery qualifies as a first or the second-degree. 

A first-degree robbery occurs when:

  • Victim is a driver or passenger in a bus, taxi, or other public transportation;
  • Victim is inside any inhabited dwelling place or residence, or
  • Victim is using or has just finished using an ATM.

Second-degree robbery includes all other forms of robbery.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove?

If you were accused of PC 211 robbery, the prosecutor will have to prove several crucial factors in order to obtain a conviction.

These factors are commonly known as the elements of the crime and listed under in CALCRIM 1600 Jury Instructions:

  • You took property you didn't own,
  • The property was in the possession of someone else,
  • You took property in the victim's immediate presence, against their will,
  • You used force to fear to take property, or
  • To prevent other person from resisting,
  • Your intent was to deprive owner of property permanently, or
  • You used force or fear to take the property or to prevent resisting,
  • You had intent to deprive owner of property permanently, or either
  • Long enough to deprive owner a portion of its value.

It should be noted a robbery offense only occurs when you take property directly from the victim or in the immediate presence, which means the property was within their control.

What are the Penalties for PC 211 Robbery?

If convicted, the penalties will always depend on whether it's a first-degree or second-degree robbery.

The penalties for a California second-degree robbery is either:

  • Two, three, or five years in the California state prison,
  • A fine up to $10,000,
  • Formal felony probation.

In a situation where the first-degree robbery occurred within an occupied dwelling and was committed in concert with at least two other individuals (home invasion), the penalties include:

Penalties for California PC 211 Robbery
The penalties for PC 211 robbery will depend on whether it's a first-degree or second-degree robbery.
  • Three, six, or nine years in California state prison.

All other California first-degree robberies will include the following penalties:

  • Three, four, or six years in California state prison,
  • A fine up to $10,000,
  • Felony probation.

It's worth noting that a judge has the discretion to impose felony probation in lieu of prison time for a PC 211 robbery case. 

As part of felony probation, the judge could require the defendant to serve up to a year in the county jail and impose other conditions, such as completing community service hours.

Also, Penal Code 211 robbery is a violent felony in California and will count as a “strike” under the three strikes law.

California's great bodily injury enhancement 

It's also worth noting that 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 bodily injury enhancement.

Example of Use of Force or Fear in Robbery Cases

In spite of which degree of robbery has been charged by the prosecutor, the elements of the crime stay the same.

The primary distinguishing feature of a robbery offense, as opposed to other types of theft crimes, is the use of force or fear by the defendant.  Let's review a simple example to make this crucial factor clear.

Imagine a victim places their laptop next to him on a public park bench and falls asleep.

Someone walking by takes notice of the laptop and sneaks up and takes it while never engaging with the sleeping victim.

In this scenario, the suspect is obviously guilty of grand theft since the laptop is probably worth over $950, but they are NOT guilty of PC 211 robbery.

Why? The suspect used stealth, not force or fear to gain possession of the victim's property.

In the same scenario, let's now imagine the victim was awake and sitting on the bench using their laptop. The suspect walking by decides to make a move on getting the laptop.

They tell the victim to give them the laptop or they will get hurt badly. The victim believes the threat is credible, so they hand over the laptop.

In this scenario, the suspect is guilty of second-degree robbery because he didn't harm the victim, but did use force or fear to steal the laptop.

What Are the Related Offenses for PC 211 Robbery?

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,

Penal Code 12022.53 PC – use a gun and you’re done.

What are the Defenses for Robbery Charges?

As discussed above, our criminal lawyers can use a wide range of defenses against California Penal Code 211 robbery charges, including:

  • You did not use force or fear to take possession of property,
  • Lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,
  • False allegation,
  • Mistaken identity,

The use of force or fear is probably the most crucial element in a California robbery case. If the prosecutor is unable to prove this critical factor, then you can't be guilty of robbery, but could face reduced charges with lesser penalties.

Defenses for California Penal Code 211 Robbery Charges
Call our law firm to review the case and options.

Another potential defense is an argument of mistaken identity. In many robbery incident, the perpetrator was wearing a mask or other forms of disguise.

We make be able to raise reasonable about the actual identity of the defendant.

If you or a family member has been charged with the serious felony offense of robbery under California Penal Code Section 211, contact our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers to review to the case.   

We might be able to negotiate wit the prosecutor for reduced charges or even a case dismissal. Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to prevent formal charges from being filed before court.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm with two office locations in Los Angeles County.

Contact our firm for a consultation at (310) 328-3776.

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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