Robbery may be a common crime, but it’s considered a serious offense under California criminal law. If convicted of a robbery, you could face significant jail time and fines. There are several things regarding robbery in California criminal law that you should be aware of — beginning with what qualifies as robbery in California.

What is robbery?

According to California Penal Code Section 211, “robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from their person or immediate presence, and against their well, accomplished by means of force or fear.” In order to convict someone for robbery, a prosecutor needs to prove the following five aspects of the crime:

  1. You took property that did not belong to you. This means that you took possession of someone else’s property and moved it, even if you moved it only a short distance. For example, if you stole someone’s wallet, ran a block down the road and ditched the wallet, that would be considered robbery.
  2. You took that property from another person’s possession or immediate presence. Possession of property refers to the victim’s control or right to have control of the property. Immediate presence means that the victim and their property are in the same location as you and they would have maintained control of the property if the robbery didn’t happen.
  3. You took property against that person’s will.
  4. You used force or threats to take the property. In this case, force refers to physical violence, and fear is a fear of injury to the victim, the victim’s family, the property or someone else at the scene of the robbery.
  5. When you took the property, you meant to take it permanently or for a long enough period of time that you would deprive the owner of the property of most of the property’s value. If you intended to deprive the victim of the value of their property, that means you planned on taking the property for a significant amount of time. 

What sentence could I face if I’m convicted?

California law divides robbery into first and second degrees. A crime is considered a first-degree robbery if any of the following are true:

  • The victim is the driver or passenger in a taxi, bus, streetcar, cable car, subway or other transportation for hire;
  • The robbery takes place in an inhabited house, boat or trailer
  • The robbery happens while or immediately after the victim visits an ATM

The maximum sentence for first-degree robbery in California law is 6 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000. All robbery in California is charged as a felony.

Second-degree robbery is a robbery in which none of the requirements for first-degree robbery are true. The maximum sentence for second-degree robbery in California is five years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

Under California law, counts of robbery are determined by the number of victims involved, not the number or value of the items that were stolen. There are also several other factors that could cause you to serve a longer sentence or face a larger fine. Some examples are:

  • Great Bodily Injury – If the victim of a robbery suffered “great bodily injury,” which is determined case-by-case, you could face an extra three to six years added to your sentence. Additional time will be determined by a jury’s impression of the severity of the injury, resulting pain and required medical care.
  • Use of a gun – There are harsh penalties for using a firearm while committing a felony due to California Penal Code Section 12022.53, or the 10-20-life law. This is a sentence enhancement that applies to any felony committed with a firearm. For a robbery, you could face an extra 10 years for using a gun during a robbery, an extra 20 years added to your sentence for firing the gun during a robbery and another 25-to-life for firing a gun that results in great bodily harm or death during a robbery.
  • Multi-person robbery – If you and two or more people commit a robbery together in an inhabited building, your maximum sentence could be 9 years.
  • Three Strikes Law – In California law, robbery is considered a “violent felony.” That means it falls under the state’s Three Strikes Law, which states, “…a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life.”

What should you do if you’re facing robbery charges?

Robbery charges are a felony offense in California law, and must be taken seriously. A skilled California criminal defense attorney can properly examine the facts of your case so that your rights are protected. An experienced, diligent and aggressive criminal law attorney can help you get a favorable result in your case. Schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Grant Bettencourt to see how we can help.