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What Are the Best Defenses for Robbery Charges?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jun 20, 2022

California Penal Code 211 PC defines the serious felony crime of robbery as the felonious taking of personal property in possession of someone, from their person or immediate presence, against their will, using force or fear.

Robbery charges are filed as either first-degree or second-degree, and the penalties for a conviction will depend on the case's specific circumstances.   Readers should note that robbery is always a felony crime and not the usual theft crime “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor.

A PC 211 robbery conviction could be a “strike” on your record under California's three-strikes law. Sentencing enhancements could substantially increase the penalties, such as using a firearm while committing the crime.

An experienced criminal defense attorney has various legal strategies available to seek the best possible outcome on the Penal Code 211 robbery charges. I've been defending robbery cases for 30 years, since the early 1990s, all over Los Angeles County.

Some of the ideas I would mention to you are based on my experience, having handled many robbery cases over the years.  Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this topic further below.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove in a Robbery Case?

If accused of PC 211 robbery, the prosecutor must prove several crucial factors to obtain a conviction, which is called the elements of the crime and listed under CALCRIM 1600 Jury Instructions, that you did the following illegal acts:

  • took property you didn't own;
  • property was in possession of another person;
  • property was taken in the victim's immediate presence, against their will;
  • force to fear was used to take the property or
  • to prevent another person from resisting
  • intent was to deprive the owner of the property permanently or
  • long enough to deprive the owner of a portion of its value.

A robbery offense only occurs when you take property directly from the victim or in the immediate presence, which means the property is in their control.

What is an Insufficient Evidence Defense?

The first idea is having a defense for the robbery case.  Sometimes the case is called a “who done it”?  In other words, I'm not the person that committed the robbery:

  • You can't prove that I'm the person;
  • You don't have an eyewitness identifying me;
  • You don't have fingerprints;
  • You don't have DNA;
  • You don't have video evidence;
  • You didn't catch me at the scene;
  • You didn't find me with the weapon.

This type of defense is what we call a who-done-it, and sometimes, that comes up where the robber is wearing a mask or gets away, and none of the witnesses can identify the client.

So, we would say they're innocent.  They didn't commit the robbery. You don't have the evidence to prove the robbery charges.

Of course, it would be nice to be able to come up with an alibi to say that you were somewhere else and be able to bring evidence and proof to show that you were somewhere else.  Now you start to have the making of an excellent defense to a robbery who done it case.

What are Some Common Mistakes?

You must avoid a common mistake if you've been arrested or charged with PC 211 robbery, which is a severe charge.  It's a strike in California, a violent felony, and any jail or prison time you receive as part of your sentence will be served at 85%.  Plus, that robbery conviction will stay on your record in California forever. 

It will be a strike moving forward, and if you get any other cases – especially serious or violent felonies – you'll be looking at a lot more time .in custody than you usually would.  So, if you've been arrested or charged with robbery, you don't want to make any mistakes moving forward, such as the following:

  • I think the first mistake that some people make is doing nothing.  They just put their head in the sand.  They've been arrested, they post their $50,000 bail, and then they just hope for the best as they wait for their court date to approach.  In my opinion, this is a mistake. You want to get a good attorney on your case immediately–somebody who will fight for you.
  • Other mistakes that I see people make is when they try to handle the investigation and the surrounding circumstances of their case themselves; instead of letting their attorney control it – let their attorney do the research – let their attorney make the necessary moves so they can end up with the best possible result.

What Defenses Can Be Used When Guilt is Not in Doubt?

There are other times that we know the person who committed the robbery.  In other words:

  • they've got him on video;
  • they have multiple witnesses identifying them;
  • they're caught at the scene;
  • they're caught in the getaway car;
  • they're caught with a gun.

It can happen in numerous ways where you can't realistically assert the defense that you weren't the person who committed the robbery.

But you can say that it wasn't a robbery.  Penal Code Section 487(c) PC is called a grand theft person.  That's where you're taking something away from an individual.  That's different than a robbery.

Negotiation with Prosecutor in Robbery Cases

That would be a better charge if you had to swallow a charge.  You'd much rather have a Penal Code Section 487(c) because it's not a strike.  You only do half-time on the crime instead of the 85% you do on the robbery.

It doesn't sound as bad.  You can reduce that to a misdemeanor if you get probation and complete it. So, that's another idea to deal with a robbery case, and that is just to come up with a different chargepetty theft – there are all sorts of other crimes that are not robbery.

You wouldn't want a robbery on your record because it's a strike.   It's a violent felony.  You have to serve 85% of your time in Los Angeles County.

It's presumptive prison, meaning judges and prosecutors assume that the people will be sent to jail on those charges.  Unless you can prove there are some unusual circumstances, you don't deserve to go to jail, such as:

  • you're young;
  • you have no criminal record;
  • there wasn't any violence;
  • you didn't use a weapon.

Many different arguments can be made so that you can try to get something other than a robbery, not go to prison, and not have to serve 85% of the term. Now, you understand what you can do regarding these robbery cases.  Sometimes, you also have to swallow the robbery conviction.

Consult with a Robbery Defense Lawyer

Sometimes, you're charged with multiple robberies if there's more than one person and if robberies occur on different days.

Robbery Defense Lawyer in California

Each theft is a strike, so obviously, you want your criminal defense attorney if you have to plead guilty or no contest to a robbery charge to ensure you're limited to just one charge.

Otherwise, if you have to plead guilty to two charges, you'll have two strikes; if you were to pick up another strike, you'd face 25 to life.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with robbery and needs help, you've come to the right place.  I worked for the District Attorney's office early in my career.

I've worked for a Superior Court Judge, so I've got a good idea of how these cases are handled and what to do with their cases, and of course, I've been a criminal defense attorney since the early 1990s.

So, if you need the best, and I think you do if you're charged with a robbery case, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case consultation.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.