Robbery is a form of property crime that involves unlawfully taking another person’s property from the person’s immediate presence. This crime relates to other property crimes such as theft, burglary, shoplifting, extortion, kidnapping, and carjacking. Thus, you can as well be charged with robbery and a robbery-related crime. You need proper legal representation to defend yourself against the charges, and Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is ready to represent you if you are charged with robbery in Vista, California and neighboring cities.
What is Robbery under California Law?
Penal Code 211 California robbery laws define robbery as the act of taking private property from the immediate possession of another person, against the person’s will, and by imposing fear or using violence or any form of power. This statute regards robbery as a felony offense. In addition, under California Penal Code 1192.7, robbery is a “violent” felony.
For a person to be guilty of robbery, the prosecutor is required to prove the following elements:
- The person took something that they did not own;
- The item(s) taken were in the possession and control of another person (the robbery victim);
- The alleged robber took the items directly from the victim;
- The victim did not consent;
- The alleged robber used force or imposed fear to the victim, or even intoxicated the victim to get the property.
The Degrees and Penalties of Robbery
Robbery takes different degrees based on the severity of the crime. The punishments for any robbery crime vary according to the degree that the defendant is charged with.
A robbery offense is regarded as a first-degree robbery if any of these facts hold:
- The robbery victim is a passenger or driver of a “transportation for hire” vehicle such as a taxi, subway, streetcar, bus, and cable car;
- The robbery scene is a trailer, boat, or inhabited house/structure (a place where someone lives or has left with the intention of returning);
- The crime occurs in an ATM’s vicinity after a person has just used or is using an ATM.
Note that a person can still be charged with a first-degree robbery even if the owner of the inhabited house/structure is not present during the scene. However, the robbery charges are valid only if the owner or occupants left the place because of a natural disaster and are intending to return. This kind of robbery is a felony, punishable by:
- Three, four, or six years imprisonment,
- Formal (felony) probation, and/or
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Furthermore, if the offense was committed in a dwelling and by more than one person, the defendants would serve three, six, or nine years in the state prison.
A robbery is termed as a second-degree robbery if it fails to meet the above requirements of a first-degree robbery. The form of robbery is also a felony, punishable by:
- Two, three, or five years imprisonment,
- Felony probation,
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Robberies Involving Multiple Victims
Also, you may be charged with a robbery involving multiple victims. In California, a robbery case is driven by the number of people or victims involved but not the count of items taken. For instance, if you are charged with one count of robbery, it means that you allegedly robbed a single person. Similarly, robbing two people at a go will get you charged with two counts of robbery. But stealing multiple items from one victim does not account to multiple charges of robbery – that is, a person will still face one count of robbery even if they stole multiple items from a single person.
Are There Sentence Enhancements for Robbery?
In addition to the penalties depending on the degree of robbery, there are some additional sentences that may be included in your conviction. These sentences are imposed under three statutes as follows:
This statute is known as the “10-20-life - use a gun and you're done” law. It provides additional penalties if a person uses a firearm to violate PEN 211 robbery laws.
Precisely, the person receives an addition of:
- Ten years for individually using a firearm during the robbery,
- Twenty years for intentionally and personally firing a gun while robbing, and
- Twenty-five years to life-imprisonment if the victim died or incurred a serious bodily injury during the robbery with a firearm.
Robbery is regarded as a violent felony. Just like other violent or serious felonies, robbery is a strike under the three strikes law.
If you are convicted of robbery and later commit any other felony offense, you are subjected to twice the usual imprisonment for the subsequent felony offense.
If the strikes accumulate, with at least one strike in your criminal record being a robbery, your subsequent felony offense will be punished by a minimum of twenty-five years in the state prison.
Also known as the great bodily injury enhancement, this statute provides sentence enhancement for robberies where the victims suffer severe body injuries.
The enhancement involves the addition of three to six years to the normal sentences of robbery.
Offenses that are Related to Robbery
Penal code section 211 shares elements with other forms of property crimes and violent offenses. These crimes include:
A person violates PEN 518 extortion laws when they use force or impose fear to make the victim give away his/her property unwillingly. The difference between robbery and extortion is that in a robbery, the perpetrator does not ask the victim to agree to give away their property while in extortion the victim agrees to give his/her property after being forced to by the perpetrator.
Unlike in robbery, where the use of fear or force means that the robber threatened to injure or actually injured the victim, fear or force in extortion covers the threat(s) to expose someone’s secrets, report their immigration status, or accuse them of a certain crime. Thus, you may be charged with extortion instead of robbery if the victim unwillingly gave you their items under the above forms of threats.
Extortion is considered a felony, whose sentences include two, three, or four years in county jail.
Under PEN 207, kidnapping involves moving a person a substantial distance by imposing fear or using force. This offense has sentences of three, five, or eight years imprisonment.
You can be charged with both robbery and kidnapping if you kidnapped a person with the intention of robbing them, for example, by forcing a person to get into your car, driving them to another location, and taking their belongings.
Robbing a person after kidnapping them is considered a more severe offense than ordinary kidnapping and/or robbery. In this case, the robber can face life imprisonment. But before the person is convicted, there must be sufficient evidence to show that the victim was moved to a place that was not incidental to the robbery crime.
Under penal code 215, carjacking involves the use of force or fear to take another person’s car. The car owner must be present for carjacking charges to be valid.
Carjacking is similar to robbery, except that in carjacking, the item robbed is a car. This means that the prosecutor can decide to file charges for both robbery and carjacking. But the perpetrator can only face conviction for either robbery or carjacking (carjacking is a form of robbery).
Similar to robbery, carjacking is punished as a felony. The punishment for this offense is a state prison term of three years, five years, or nine years.
Petty Theft and Grand Theft
Penal codes 484(a) and 488 describe the following elements of petty theft:
- The property stolen has a value of 950 dollars or less,
- The items taken were not a weapon or any automobile, and
- The items were not directly taken from the victim.
On the other hand, if the items that were stolen have a value of more than 950 dollars, they were taken from the victim’s immediate presence (pickpocketing), the item is an automobile or a firearm, the theft is known as penal code 487 grand theft.
Similar to robbery, the prosecutor must prove that the items were taken without the owner’s consent, the alleged thief managed to move the items away for a substantial distance, and they possessed the items even for a brief time for any theft case to be valid.
Petty thefts are convicted as misdemeanors, with a maximum jail term of six months.
Grand thefts are wobbler offenses unless the item that was stolen is a firearm (firearm grand thefts carries only felony penalties): a misdemeanor grand theft carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail; a felony grand theft carries a county jail sentence of sixteen months, two years, or three years.
Clearly, robbery convictions carry more sentences than petty or grand thefts. Thus, most criminal defense attorneys seek to reduce robbery charges to charges of petty or grand thefts.
Burglary is another common offense related to robbery. PEN 459 defines burglary as entering a building, locked vehicle, or room with the intention of committing a felony while inside the enclosure. The felony can be a robbery, theft, rape, or any other felonious acts.
Basically, a person who commits a robbery inside a building would also be violating the burglary laws. In short, a person can face charges for both burglary and robbery if the robbery scene is a room, locked vehicle, or building.
The penalties of burglary depend on the crime scene, which further determines the type of burglary. Residential (first degree) burglaries are burglaries where the crime scene is someone’s residence, and always treated as felonies. The penalties, in this case, are a maximum fine of 10,000 dollars, state imprisonment for two, four, or six years, and/or felony probation.
Commercial (second degree) burglaries occur at business premises or any place that is not used for residential purposes. This form of burglary is a wobbler. The misdemeanor penalties include a maximum fine of 1,000 dollars, a maximum county jail term of one year, and/or summary probation. On the other hand, the felony penalties are similar to the penalties of residential burglary, except that the sentence is sixteen months, two years, or three years.
PEN 459.5 shoplifting is similar to petty theft since the items stolen must have a value of 950 dollars or less. However, for a shoplifting charge, a person must have acquired the items from a commercial building under its usual working house.
The similarity of the above robbery-related offenses is that a prosecutor must prove that a person had the intent to take an item or property. Their difference, however, stems from whether the use of force or fear is relevant in the prosecution of the particular offense.
Legal Defenses for Robbery
If you are charged with robbery only, your defense may majorly rely on refuting the evidence on the elements of robbery presented by the prosecutor, claiming that you are falsely accused, or you were mistakenly identified.
If you are facing a robbery charge with any other forms of property crimes or thefts, you will need a defense attorney that is well-versed with the laws you are accused of violating, and possibly seek a dismissal or a reduction of your charges.
The following defense strategies can help in a robbery case:
You are falsely accused
Your defense attorney will conduct thorough research to establish why you were accused of the robbery. For instance, you might be accused out of the plaintiff’s anger, hate, or the need to revenge. To establish this, the attorney may interview several witnesses, scrutinize the communication between you and the alleged victim, and thoroughly analyze the facts presented for the case. If there is no legal basis on which you were accused, the judge may drop the charges against you.
You never used force or did not impose fear to gain possession of the property
According to the law, use of force or imposing fear is a critical element in the robbery charges. This element distinguishes a California robbery crime from other related crimes. Thus, if the prosecutor is not able to substantiate the claim that you used fear or force, although you may have actually committed the crime, you may be charged with a theft crime.
The owner consented
A robbery conviction holds if the owner did not consent to the taking of their items. If it can be proved that the property owner agreed to give away the property, then the defendant cannot be convicted of robbery – they may face extortion charges instead if force, fear, or threats was used. To prove that the owner consented, the defense team may provide a written agreement between the defendant and the alleged victim, or even a receipt showing that the defendant actually bought the items purported to have been stolen.
You have the right to the property ownership
If you took property but strongly and justifiably believed that the items belonged to you, then this does not qualify as a robbery case. In this defense, it may be essential to provide ownership documents of the property in question.
This defense does not apply in situations where one acquires the property in the form of robbery to settle a debt. Also, if the person owned the property or the items illegally, such as owning illegal drugs, this defense strategy would not apply.
In many robbery cases, the perpetrators wear masks or any other covering to hide their faces and avoid being recognized by the victims. Due to this, the victim may identify a robber according to their height, clothes, voice or any other pieces of evidence that they noticed. This process leads to so many cases of mistaken identities.
An experienced lawyer will evaluate the case and find out if the evidence provided is less reliable, that is, the evidence provided cannot sufficiently identify the real robber. In such a case, the judge may ask the prosecutor to gather sufficient evidence that confirms the robber’s identity or, possibly, dismisses the charges.
Lack of the intention to commit robbery
You may be forced to rob someone after being threatened. You may also be entrapped into committing the offenses. In such cases, you took the items unwillingly and you are not liable to robbery charges. Even though it is simple to claim that you had no intention to rob, proving this claim is usually an uphill task because the judge has the discretion to decide whether the prosecutor provided enough evidence to prove this element or whether the defense has an upper hand in the claim.
Can I Access a Vista Robbery Crime Attorney Near Me?
Are you charged with robbery and require a qualified attorney? Do you need a legal team to make the above arguments to defend you against the robbery charges? Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm has criminal defense attorneys who can help you defend your charges. We serve clients in Vista, California and the whole of North County. Call 760-691-1551 to consult with our staff on how best to handle your case.