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Penal Code 211 PC – California “Robbery” Laws - Tabibnia Law

Penal Code 211 PC – California “Robbery” Laws

1. What is the Legal Definition of California Robbery?

According to California Penal Code Section 211 PC, robbery is a crime that is defined broadly as a theft committed with force. It means taking someone else’s property through oppression or force. Robbery is a serious felony-level offense because it involves the use of force, threat, and fear, which can result in significant prison sentences.

Here are the following elements of robbery under PC 211:

  • Owning a property that didn’t belong to you;
  • The property was in possession of another person;
  • You seized the property from someone or their immediate presence;
  • You took possession of property forcefully from another person against their will;
  • A fear-based or force-based approach was used to seize the property or stop the other party from opposing;
  • Your intent was to remove the property from its owner either permanently or for long enough using force or fear to deprive him/her of a major portion of the property’s value.

If someone has taken possession of someone’s property and moved with it some short distance away, the suspect can still be charged with a crime. Even if the property is immediately returned. For example, stealing someone’s wallet and running down the streets, and abandoning the wallet are some things that could be related to it.

Let’s take a closer look at the legal definitions of some of the terms that we must know:

1.1 Taking Someone’s Else Property

This term elaborates that obtaining possession of someone’s property and moving it away at a shorter distance.

1.2 In Possession Of The Property

If a law mentioned “in possession of the property”, it means the victim had control of it or the right to control it.
Under California robbery law, “Possession” does not mean whether a person is actually holding or touching the property. It is enough for them if they have control over it or the right to control it. The victim doesn’t necessarily have to own the property that was stolen if he/she has actual or constructive possession of it. For example, store clerks are considered to have possession of the store’s or business’s property.

1.3 Immediate Presence

This California robbery law says that the victim and their property are in the same place as you, and directly take control of the property from the victim or his/her “immediate presence”. An individual is considered to have “immediate presence” if they physically control a piece of property, and could have retained possession of it if the robbery hadn’t occurred.

1.4 Against The Property Owner’s Will

It means the other person freely consents to give you possession of their property. Otherwise, it is against their will.
According to California’s robbery law, if you take property against the owner’s will, you are considered to have committed robbery. The consent must be given freely, and by a person who understands what they are doing.
In simple terms, a robbery occurs when you threaten a person with a gun and they run away, leaving behind some personal property that you take. Even though they weren’t aware you were taking their property, you did so without their consent.

1.5 Use of Force, Threat, or Fear

Under California Penal Code Section 211 PC, a robbery always involves the use of force, threat, and fear. For purposes of robbery law, force means physical violence. And threat and fear mean fear of injury to the followings:

  • The victim him/herself,
  • A family member of the victim,
  • The victim’s property,
  • Someone else present at the scene.

California courts have ruled that if the defendant drugged the victim and then took his/her property, force or fear was used and a robbery occurred.
Taking something from someone without force or fear does not constitute California robbery. In this case, a pickpocket would not be guilty of the crime (but would be liable for another theft crime. 

1.6 Intent to Deprive of Property’s Value

This implies when you intended to take the property for a small amount of time. In simple terms, the crime of robbery has a specific intent. In the context of robbery, you commit the crime only if you intend to take the victim’s property permanently or for a period of time long enough to cause a major loss to the owners.

2. What are the Penalties for Penal Code 211 PC Robbery?

The penalties for Penal Code 211 robbery depend on whether the defendant is sentenced for so-called “first-degree” or “second-degree” robbery.

If the victim is a driver or passenger of a taxi, bus, or subway, if the robbery occurs inside a house, trailer, or boat, or when the alleged victim uses an ATM or immediately after using an ATM, then the robbery is considered first-degree robbery. The term second-degree robbery applies to all robberies that are not first-degree robberies.

2.1 Penalties For First-Degree Robbery in California

As we mentioned above, first-degree robbery is usually committed:

  • The victim is a driver or passenger of a bus, taxi, cable car, streetcar, trackless trolley, subway, or other similar transportation for hire.
  • The robbery occurs in an inhabited house, boat, or trailer.
  • The robbery occurs while or after the victim uses an ATM.

The penalties for first-degree robbery in California are punished as a felony. Here are the following sentences:

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • Up to 3 years, 4 years, or 6 years in California State Prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Placement on formal felony probation
  • Loss of your right to own a firearm for life

But, this PC 211 robbery can carry a 3 to 9 years state prison sentence if you commit the crime in an inhabited structure with two or more people.

2.2 Penalties For Second-Degree Robbery in California

California Penal Code defines second-degree robbery as a crime that does not fall within first-degree robbery criteria. The second-degree robbery is punished by the following felony penalties:

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • Up to 2 years, 3 years, or 5 years in California State Prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Placement on formal felony probation
  • Loss of your right to own a firearm for life

2.3 Robbery Cases With Multiple Victims

Robbery counts are based on how many victims there are, not how much property is stolen.
You will be charged with two counts according to California Penal Code for robbery if you force two people in order to steal one of their wallets by using force or fear. On the other hand, you will only be charged with one count of robbery if you steal multiple items from one person, such as jewelry and a cell phone.

2.4 Sentence Enhancements for California Robbery

There are a variety of sentence enhancements that may come under Penal Code 211 robbery conviction in addition to the above robbery penalties. Here are the followings:

2.4.1 Penal Code 12022.7 PC California’s Great Bodily Injury Enhancement

You could be charged with great bodily injury enhancement under California Penal Code 12022.7 if you harm another person and there is a “great bodily injury”(defined as a substantial physical injury) while committing a robbery.
If you are convicted of this crime, this enhancement can add 3 to 6 years to your sentence.

2.4.2 Penal Code 12022.53 “10-20-life use a gun and you’re done”

According to California’s “10-20-life use a gun and you’re done” law, if a defendant uses a gun in the commission of a robbery, he/she will be sentenced to 10-20 years of prison.
In this case, an accused will receive additional penalties, including:

  • 10 years sentence for using a gun during a robbery;
  • 20 years punishment for personal and intentional use of a firearm during a robbery;
  • 25 years to life in prison for using a gun during a robbery and cause a person great bodily injury or death

2.4.3 California’s three-strikes law

A robbery that violates Penal Code 211 is a “violent felony” under California law. Hence, it is a “strike offense” in accordance with California’s “three strikes” law.
The result of this is that if you had a robbery conviction on your record and subsequently committed another California felony, you would face double the sentence.

And, if you accumulate three “strike” convictions, one or more of which may be a PC 211 robbery conviction, it’s possible to receive a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.

3. How Can I Fight PC 211 Robbery Charges?

If you have committed a robbery and are charged with this crime, an experienced criminal lawyer can make a number of defenses to defend you. In order to know which defense works best in your case, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Tabibnia Law Firm to go over the facts of your case to make such a determination.
Generally, there are a variety of common legal defenses used to fight California robbery charges – get their charges reduced or dismissed in the pretrial process. But, not all defenses may apply to your case.
Here are the followings:

3.1 You Didn’t Use Force or Fear to Take The Property

An accused can fight for his/her PC 211 robbery charges if he/she intimidates or threatens the victim for handing over the property without actually taking any specific action related to force or fear.
In this case, if you took or attempted to take someone’s property without forcing the victim, you can resist your PC 211 charges on these grounds through a criminal defense lawyer.

3.2 You Honestly Believed That You Had a Right To the Property

A California law excuses robbery if you rob someone based on an honest belief that their property is rightfully yours. In legal terms, this is called the “claim of right” defense.

A claim of right defense can be used even if you believe you have an unreasonable or mistaken right to the property.
The law does not apply to crimes committed with the intention of settling debts.

3.3 You Are a Victim of Mistaken Identity

Often, robbery suspects are charged after the victim identifies them in a pretrial lineup – a procedure that often results in wrongdoing and false accusations.

Other robberies were committed by perpetrators who were hidden behind masks or disguises. This meant that the defendant was identified with the help of clothing, height/weight, or other flimsy things.

Defense lawyers are skilled at evaluating whether the prosecution’s case is based mainly on circumstantial evidence or on real evidence. If the prosecutor exhibits these flaws in their evidence, she/he can convince the jury that they may not convict unless they are absolutely sure they have the right person (or woman).

3.4 You Were Falsely Accused

Thousands of robbery-and other criminal charges are filed in California each year because of false accusations.

Any number of reasons can lead to someone accusing you of robbery falsely. There is a possibility that the actual perpetrator is trying to hide his own guilt. Perhaps your ex-spouse is trying to control you out of anger or jealousy.

The facts of what actually occurred, in this case, will also require a robbery defense lawyer for a thorough investigation.

4. Penal Code 211 Robbery and Related Offenses

Some California theft crimes and other crimes are commonly charged in conjunction with Penal Code 211 PC robbery. The following are among them:

4.1 Penal Code 215 PC Carjacking

Under California’s Penal Code 215 PC, carjacking is illegal when someone else’s car is taken by force or fear. To rephrase it, California carjacking is similar to PC 211 robbery. But here, the stolen property is a car. In fact, you could potentially be charged with both robbery and carjacking. However, you could only be found guilty of one or the other.

The crime of carjacking has a maximum sentence of 3 years, 5 years, or 9 years in state prison if it is found to be a felony.

4.2 Penal Code 487 & 488 PC – Grand Theft And Petty Theft

If you stole or took someone else’s property illegally without threatening or using force or fear, you could be charged with a crime either of the followings:

  • Penal Code 487 grand theft, or
  • Penal Code 488 petty theft.

So, what are grand theft and petty theft??

When an accused directly stole or took off the property (a car or a gun) from the victim, which is worth more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), grand theft will be charged. Except these, all other cases are considered petty theft.

For example, if pickpocketing or shoplifting is involved, then grand theft will be charged, but it won’t be for PC 211 robbery.

Grand theft isn’t specific, as it could be charged as a felony or a misconduct offense (violation), depending on the different constraints of the case. The potential jail sentence for a felony is less than the prison sentence for robbery, which is only 16 months, 2 or 3 years.

But, petty theft is a misdemeanor in California law. And, the maximum jail sentence for the crime of petty theft in this state is 6 months.

Due to this, defendants in California often try to reduce their charges for Penal Code 488 petty theft and Penal Code 487 grand theft.

4.3 Penal Code 207 PC – Kidnapping

The Penal Code 207 is California’s kidnapping law, which penalizes the accused if he/she uses force or fear to move another person (victim) at a significant distance.

For example, if the crime is in which you forced the victim into a car and then drove to a remote location to steal his belongings, then you may be charged with both robbery and kidnapping.

Kidnapping a person for the purpose of committing a robbery is a serious offense in California. If the victim is kidnapped and moved to a distance to commit a robbery, it may result in a life sentence in prison (with the possibility of parole).

A usual kidnapping can lead an accused to a long prison sentence, which could be 3, 5, or 8 years in state prison.

4.4 Penal Code 518 PC – Extortion

Penal Code 518 states that the crime of extortion in California happens when someone uses force or threats to compel (force or pressure) someone to give them money, or property, or to compel a public official to perform or neglect an official act.

Yes, there is a difference between PC 518 extortion and PC 211 robbery. In a robbery, the victim does not want (consent) to give up his money or property. Whereas, in extortion, the victim does consent due to the use of force or threats done by the defendants.

Likewise, there is a different meaning of “force or fear” in terms of extortion. For extortion, it includes threatening to

  • Injure the victim, another person, or property,
  • Accuse another person of a crime,
  • Disclose a secret about the victim or a member of their family,
  • Force the victim into giving them money or property,
  • Reporting someone’s immigration status.

Even where the victim doesn’t sustain injuries or have force used against them, the defendant can still be found guilty of extortion. It is necessary to justify the threat in order to be found guilty of a crime.

Extortion is a serious crime and can lead to 2 years, 3 years, or 4 years of imprisonment in county jail.

4.5 Penal Code 459 PC – Burglary

Under Penal Code 459 PC, the crime of burglary in California occurs when you enter a room, a locked car, or a building with the intent of committing a felony (such as robbery).

If any robbery takes place inside a home, a car, or a building, then a defendant will be subjected to and charged with burglary also. Burglary is considered a serious offense if committed in a private house. But, it is a wobbler if it is committed in any other structure. The potential prison sentence for burglary felony is 2, 4, or 6 years.

There is an exception to California burglary law for the crime of Penal Code 459.5 PC shoplifting. Usually, this felony is considered when someone enters a commercial building during business hours and commits a robbery worth nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less.

But, PC 459.5 shoplifting is a non-indictable offense.

Get Assistance From Tabibnia Law Firm!

There is no doubt to say that robbery is a serious offense in California, holding substantial prison sentences if committed as mentioned above. So, if you have any questions about the PC 211 robbery or want to discuss something about your case, it is the right time to contact our California-based professional and experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer.

Tabibnia Law Firm is a leading criminal defense law firm representing people throughout California. We have a track record of success defending clients against all types of robbery crimes. So, don’t hesitate! Ask us right now for an immediate consultation.

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