Robbery charges in California are one of the most common criminal charges a person may face whether it be in Los Angeles, Riverside or Orange County. The crime of robbery ranges in degrees depending upon many factors such as armed robbery or a robbery by use of force or fear not involving a weapon as discussed below. Such charges are felonies in California and if not properly represented by a qualified California criminal defense attorney, one may face an unnecessary amount of time in California State Prison.
Elements of the Criminal Offense of Robbery Under California Law
Under California Criminal Jury instructions (CACI) 1600 a prosecutor must prove the following:
1. The defendant took property that was not belonging to him or her;
2. The property that was stolen was taken from another person’s possession and immediate presence;
3. The property was taken against that person’s consent or will;
4. The person charged used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting;
5. When the person charged used force or fear to take the property, they intended to deprive the owner of the property from it permanently or that the person charged removed the property from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.
The accused’s intent to take the property must have been formed before or during the time they used the force or fear. If the accused did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then they did not commit robbery.
In defending a criminal case of Robbery, a qualified criminal defense attorney must be aware of the elements set forth in the jury instructions that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt as required by the United States and California Constitutions.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant took property that was not (his/her) own;
2. The property was taken from another person’s possession and immediate presence;
3. The property was taken against that person’s will;
4. The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting;
5. 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 extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property).
The defendant’s intent to take the property must have been formed before or during the time (he/she) used force or fear. If the defendant did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then (he/she) did not commit robbery.
California Penal Code Definition of Armed Robbery
Perhaps the most serious charge a person may face in regards to robbery is a first degree robbery charge which may include home invasion robberies, carjackings and armed robberies. Penalties under Penal Code section 211 for a first degree robbery conviction include a sentence of 3, 6 or up to 9 years in state prison. However, if a person is convicted of using a gun during a Robbery, California Penal Code section 12022.53, the face up to 10 years (for using a gun without firing), 20 years (for firing a gun during a robbery) and 25 years to life for killing someone with a gun during a robbery. This sentence is consecutive to the initial sentence for first degree robbery of 3, 6 or 9 years in California State Prison. It is imperative when being charged with armed and/or first degree robbery that a person retains and experienced California criminal defense attorney to explore the defenses to robbery as set forth below.
Second Degree Robbery Under CA Law
A conviction for second degree robbery often occurs when no weapon or serious force is used and usually occurs at a commercial business. Commercial robberies often times start off as a shoplifting case and turn into a robbery when a shoplifter is confronted by a security and uses even the smallest amount of force to escape a store. Under California Penal Code section 211, a person is guilty of committing the crime of Robbery when they take the property of another by means of force or fear. In 1983, the California Court of Appeal found in the case of People v. Estes (1983) 147 Cal.App.3d 23 , 194 Cal.Rptr. 909, 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. California courts have explained that the force needed to be convicted of an Estes robbery must be more than the incidental touching necessary to take the property. See People v. Garcia (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1246 [53 Cal.Rptr.2d 256] [noting that the force employed by a pickpocket would be insufficient]. However, as indicated above, if there is any type of physical struggle with a security guard or store employee that a shoplifter uses to escape with stolen property, they are subject to being arrested and charged for robbery.
In most circumstances, a robbery in California that arose out of a shoplifting incident is considered a second degree robbery. However a conviction of second degree robbery can lead to a sentence of up to 5 years in state prison.. In most case, the facts surrounding the crime and the criminal background of the person convicted will dictate the sentence in a shoplifting case that turned into a robbery. Given the serious consequences that a felony second degree robbery conviction can have it is imperative that a person arrested for a second degree robbery or any other robbery hire a qualified criminal defense attorney who can advise a defendant possible defenses to a robbery charge in California.
Defenses to A Criminal Charge of Robbery in CA
There are so many possible defenses to a robbery charge that one must consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after being arrested for robbery. As with most criminal cases, besides the “it wasn’t me” or lack of identity defense, a qualified criminal attorney will use a defense that will challenge one of the required elements for robbery under the California jury instructions. For example, if a person can show that property was taken not in the “immediate presence” of an alleged victim, then they would have an absolute defense to robbery. Moreover, if one can show that no “force or fear” was used to take property, then a charge to robbery can be properly challenged and or the charges may be reduced to a simple petty theft or a second degree commercial burglary.
Importance of Hiring A Los Angeles Criminal Attorney To Defend Robbery Charges
Because the burden is on the State of California to prove all elements of the crime of robbery against an accused and because there are defenses available to these accusations, it is imperative that a criminal defendant hire quality legal counsel in these matters. A private criminal attorney is able to properly investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged incidents and determine whether the case is defensible including whether all or some of the related offenses can be dismissed or reduced upon pre-trial motions and negotiations with the District Attorneys Office. For a free consultation for any robbery charge in Southern California including Los Angeles, Orange County or the Inland Empire, call us at 310-623-3771.