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In this article we analyze the laws related to the crime of robbery in California. One of the most common and well-known criminal offenses in state courts.   

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

We offer a private consultation. After learning about your case, we explain in detail the theft law and the available options.


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What Is The Crime Of Robbery In California

California Penal Code Section 211 PC clearly defines this crime.

“Theft 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”.

California Statute Penal Code 211

This crime is classified in first and second degree.

First Degree Robbery

It is the appropriation of someone else’s property through the use of force, threats or breaking into the property of another. For example:

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

Second Degree Robbery

It is any other type of robbery that does not meet any of the above elements of conviction. This is the fundamental difference between the two types of robbery, cited in Section 212.5(b) of the California Penal Code.

Elements That Define Robbery

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

  • The defendant took someone else’s property.
  • The property was in the possession of another person.
  • Such property was taken from or in the presence of the other person.
  • The property was taken against the person’s will.
  • Force or intimidation was used to take the stolen property and prevent the person from resisting.
  • By taking the property of the other person, the intention was to permanently deprive them of it and not give it back. Or, at least, long enough to cause damage. 

Examples Of Robbery And Theft

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

bag theft with firearm
  • Taking a bag from another person in the street with violence or using a gun is a frequent example. The victims of this type of incident are usually women waiting for a taxi in Los Angeles. The accused of taking the bag or wallet by force, fits perfectly in the characterization of the crime of robbery. Precisely because of the use of violence to obtain the stolen property.
  • It is different 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.
  • Another clear example of the crime of theft is entering a house while the owner is away. At the time of entering they have committed the crime of burglary. Then by taking money or something of value they are committing petty or grand theft.

However, if they are surprised inside the house by the owners who arrive at that moment, they would be committing a robbery. If the thief threatens them and runs away with someone else’s belongings, it becomes aggravated robbery. 

To learn more about the subject, we invite you to read our article “Difference between robbery and theft“. There, in addition to examples, you will learn a clear differentiated concept of both legal terms.

Robbery With Multiple Victims

The robbery crime rating in California is determined by the number of victims and not by the amount of stolen goods. It means that if the robbery is committed against two individuals, there will be two charges instead of one.  

On the other hand, if the fact involves several assets of the same person (money, jewelry, mobile and others), 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 punishable as a felony. Possible punishments include:

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

For second degree robbery the possible criminal sanctions are:

  • Probation for felony or formal offense;
  • Imprisonment of two to five years in a state jail 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 “enhance” its seriousness. These are: 

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

Defenses For The Crime Of Robbery In California 

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

1. The defendant did not intend to keep the property and intended to return it after using it: They actually thought they had the right to use the object owned by the other person. They even made a claim on the property in question. 

2. There was a mistake in identifying the accused: It often happens when suspected criminals are placed in line to be recognized by the victim. Or bystanders 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, they should be sentenced for the crime of petty theft, but not for robbery. If the prosecutor fails to prove the use of force, the charge should be dismissed.

4. The defendant is the victim of a false accusation, even by the real culprit of the act. Therefore, they did not appropriate the property that is the subject of the legal dispute.

Is Robbery a Felony In California?

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 attorneys and robbery crime experts we can help you. Tell us about your case during the professional consultation that we offer without obligation.

Crimes Related To Robbery

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

Some of these crimes are:

What Do I Do If I Am Accused Of Robbery?

Since it is a felony, you will need the legal representation of a Los Angeles criminal attorney. Remember that your freedom and the protection of your rights are in danger.  

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you: 

  • Get the judge to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence or evidence illegally obtained by the police.
  • Negotiate with the prosecution a misdemeanor theft charge after a plea agreement.
  • Get a reduced sentence for having a clean criminal record. 

In addition, we can provide legal assistance and advice during all stages of the criminal process.

If you or a family member was accused of the crime of robbery in California, do not hesitate to request our services. The attorneys at Luis Law have over 50 years of combined experience litigating these matters.


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