Robbery in California

This article analyzes the laws related to the crime of robbery in California. This is one of the most common criminal offenses that are known in the state courts.   


Los Angeles theft lawyers at Lluis Law offer you the best defenses. If you have been accused of this crime you can call us with confidence or visit us. 

We have a free consultation. After learning about your case, we explain in detail the robbery laws and the options available.

What is the crime of robbery in California

The California Penal Code, Section 211 PC, clearly defines this this crime.

“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

Penal Code 211 of the California Statute

Robbery is classified into first and second degree.

First degree robbery

It is the appropriation of another’s property through the use of force, threats or irruption in the property of another. For example:

  • Inside a public transport vehicle (subway, train, bus, taxi, or the like) and the victim is the driver or passenger.
  • In an inhabited house or in a trailer or boat where the owner intends to return.
  • Stealing money or any other property to a person on the street or at an ATM. 

Second degree robbery

It is any other type of robbery that does not comply with any of the previous elements of conviction. 

Elements that define robbery

California courts define the crime of robbery legally based on the underlying elements of the crime. To charge a person for this crime, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • He took someone else’s property.
  • The property was in the possession of another person.
  • Said property was taken from the other person or in his presence.
  • The property was taken against the will of the person.
  • Force or intimidation was used to take the stolen property and prevent the person from putting up resistance.
  • By taking the other person’s property, the intention was to permanently deprive him of it and not return it. Or, at least long enough to harm him. 

Examples of robbery and theft 

To better exemplify the difference between robbery and theft, which tend to be confused, we put the following examples below:

1. Snatching a bag from another person on the street with violence or using a gun is a frequent example. The victims of this type of event are usually women waiting for a taxi in Los Angeles.

bag theft with firearm

The accused of taking the purse by force, fits perfectly into the characterization of the crime of robbery. Precisely for the use of violence to obtain the stolen property.

2. A different scenario is when the person takes another’s coat in a restaurant and leaves, while the victim goes to the bathroom. This crime would fit better as petty theft, since there was no violence.

3. Another clear example of the crime of theft is entering a house while the owner is away. At the moment of entering you have committed the crime of burglary. Then by taking money or something of value you are committing a petty or grand theft.

But if he is caught inside the house by the owners who arrive at that moment he commits a robbery. And if the thief threatens them and flees with the belongings of others, it becomes aggravated robbery. 

If you want to learn more about it, we invite you to read our article “Difference between theft and theft“. There, in addition to examples, you will learn a clear differentiated concept from both legal terms.

Robbery with multiple victims

The robbery crime score in California is determined by the number of victims. Not by of the amount of stolen goods. It means that if the robbery is committed against two people there will be two charges instead of one.  

On the other hand, if the act involves several assets of the same person (money, jewelry, mobile and so on) a single charge is imposed.

What is the sentence for robbery in California?

The punishment for the crime of robbery in California is determined by the severity and type of robbery. Robbery in the first degree is sanctioned as a serious crime. Possible penalties include:

  • Serious or formal probation;
  • Three to six years in a state prison and / or;
  • Fine of up to $ 10,000 or both.

For robbery in the second degree the possible penal sanctions are:

  • Probation for serious or formal crime;
  • Two to five years in a state prison and / or;
  • Fine of up to $ 10,000 or both.

Aggravating factors of the sentence

Aggravated robbery is when the crime is accompanied by other factors that “improve” its severity. These are: 

  • If the crime is committed in concert with two or more people, the crime is aggravated. The sentence increases from three to nine years in prison.
  • Likewise, if during the event the victim suffers some type of physical abuse or is bodily injury, the punishment increases. The increase in sentence is up to an additional six years in prison.  
  • If you use a firearm during the robbery and cause body injuries to the victim, the sentence is higher. It could even be a life imprisonment. 
  • People convicted of two serious crimes who are later prosecuted for robbery (Three Strikes Law) face additional years in prison. The minimum sentence is 25 years or life imprisonment in a state prison.

Defenses for the crime of robbery in California 

The most common defenses submitted against a robbery charge are as follows:

1. The defendant did not intend to keep the property and intended to return it after use. He/she actually thought he/she had the right to use the object owned by the other person.

2. There was a mistake in identifying the accused. It often happens when suspected criminals are lined up to be recognized by the victim. Or passers-by who witnessed the event and are later charged by the police.  

3. There was no use of force or threats against the victim. In any case, you should be convicted of the crime of theft, but not robbery. If the prosecutor fails to demonstrate the use of force, the charge must be dismissed.

4. The accused is the victim of a false accusation, even by the actual culprit of the act.

Is robbery a serious offense in California?

Yes. The California Penal Code defines it as a serious and violent crime that is punishable by fines and imprisonment. 

expert lawyers in theft related crimes

As experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers and robbery experts, we can help you. Tell us about your case in the free consultation.

Theft-related crimes

There is a set of crimes that the California Penal Code considers as related to theft. Either because they are combined or appear involved during the commission of the act, as in the case of drugs.

Some of these crimes are:


If you were charged with the crime of robbery in California, do not hesitate to request our services. Call now and we will offer you a free, no obligation consultation. We will answer all your questions related to the topic.