Last month celebrity bad boy Andy Dick was arrested for grand theft for allegedly stealing a $1000.00 necklace off a man’s neck. (see http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/08/us-usa-andydick-arrest-idUSKBN0IS0QZ20141108.) With the passing of Prop 47 in California, such theft would still be considered a felony as the value of the property is more than $950.00 making the crime eligible to be charged as a felony. Whether you’re a celebrity or a person facing felony charges in California for the first time, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can defend against felony charges which could have such negative consequences as prison or jail time.
Grand Theft versus Robbery in California
When looking at the facts of the Andy Dick case he should be considered fortunate if he avoids of charges of Robbery. Pursuant to California Penal Code section 211, a person commits a robbery when the following elements are proved beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1. The accused took property that was not (his/her) own;
2. The property was taken from another’s possession and immediate presence;
3. The property was taken against the will of another person;
4. The accused used force or fear to take property or to prevent the person from resisting;
5. When the accused used fear or force to take property, they intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently and/or to remove the property from another’s possession for such an extended a period of time that the owner of the property would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.
The accused’s intent to take the property of another must have been formed before or during the time the accused used force or fear. If the accused did not form the required intent until after using the force or fear, then they cannot be convicted of robbery.
In the case of Andy Dick, if more than incidental force was used to take the necklace in question, there may be a basis for a robbery charge. Although most persons are familiar with robberies involving weapons such as guns, the use of a smaller amount of force is often charged as a robbery. In the California appellate court case of People v. Estes (1983) 147 Cal.App.3d 23 , 194 Cal.Rptr. 909, the Court of Appeal found that a shoplifter is guilty of the crime of robbery if they use force or fear to escape a store after the taking of the property. However, the law in California is clear that the force necessary to be convicted of a robbery such as in the Estes case must be more than the incidental touching necessary to take the property as explained in People v. Garcia (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1246