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What Must Prosecutors Prove for a PC 211 PC Robbery Case?

California Penal Code 211 PC describes the felony crime of robbery as unlawful taking of personal property in the possession of someone else, against their will, by use of force or fear.

If you are convicted of this felony offense, it carries a punishment of up to nine years in a California state prison.

PC 211 robbery is further broken down into two categories, including a first-degree or a second-degree robbery, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

An example of first-degree robbery includes robbing someone after they just used an outside automated teller machine (ATM) at their bank.

Although Penal Code 211 robbery falls under the umbrella of a theft crime, what makes it different is the fact that force or fear must be used to be charged under this statute.

Clearly, a robbery conviction can be life-changing. Thus, getting the charges reduced to a lesser crime or even dismissed is always the goal of a criminal lawyer.

This article by our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will focus of what prosecutors must prove in order to convict someone of the crime of robbery.

What is the Definition of Robbery in California?

As noted, California Penal Code § 211 PC defines “robbery” as follows:

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

Next, there are specific factors a prosecutor has to prove before a defendant is guilty of robbery. Clearly, getting arrested and charged with any crime is not the same as getting convicted of said crime.

The factors that have to be proven are called the “elements of the crime” and are listed under CALCRIM 1600 California Criminal Jury instructions for robbery, that a defendant:

What Must Prosecutors Prove for a PC 211 PC Robbery Case?
  • took possession of property they did not own;
  • the property that was taken was in possession of someone else, or their immediate presence;
  • the property was taken against their will;
  • force or fear was used to take property or prevent victim from resisting;
  • when the property was taken, there was an intent to deprive the owner permanently or an extended period time.

In the context of PC 211 robbery charges, a person “takes” property when they gain possession of it and then move it some distance, even if only a slight distance.

The victim does not have to be actually holding the property when it was taken from them. The “immediate presence” means the property was within the area of the victims control.

Use of Force or Fear in a Robbery

Robbery is basically taking somebody's property while they are present by way of force or fear.

So, usually we see robbery when somebody comes and threatens another person and tells them they're going to kill them if they don't give their property, for example. Or, we can see somebody run by and grab somebody's watch off their wrist and run away.

There's a slew of different examples, but once again, you're talking about a scenario where somebody uses either force or fear or both in order to get the property.

Estes robbery

Where things become a little more complicated is when, during the escape, some sort of force or fear is used.

For example, somebody goes into a store, steals something, nobody's there, they run out of the store and loss prevention is waiting for them at the exit and says, stop.

The person says, if you don't get out of my way I'm going to shoot you.  That would be the force or fear that is necessary for the robbery, even though it wasn't at the time of the taking of the property.

If it's during the escape, that also counts as a robbery.  That is referred to as an Estes robbery.

That's a case that sprung from a scenario where someone during the escape, used force or fear and they ended up getting convicted of a robbery, even though they didn't use force or fear at the time they took the actual property.

That can create a situation where a normal petty theft ends up getting turned into a robbery.  We see that all the time in criminal defense.

Someone's charged with robbery for only taking a $10 item, but if they used force or fear during the escape, that's good enough to get you in for the robbery.

The whole point is, we don't want people using force or fear, taking things away from other people that doesn't belong to them.

Proof That Something Was Taken From Victim Using Force or Fear

The way prosecutors prove these robbery cases is, first proving that something was taken.  Then they've got to prove that:

  • the person they're charging is the one that actually took the merchandise, and,
  • they have to prove that that person used some sort of force to take it.

Perhaps they hit somebody or pulled out a gun and pointed it someone or used some sort of fear — where they threaten the person if they don't allow them to escape with the merchandise.

Robberies are fairly easy to prove.  Sometimes confusion comes in because robberies are also very close to other crimes like PC 487 grand theft, PC 484 petty theft, PC 459 burglary, PC 215 carjacking and the like, and people can't really tell the difference.

Prosecutor's Discretion in Robbery Cases

Most of the time, the prosecutors end up having their choice — whether they want to actually charge somebody with a robbery or they want to charge them with some sort of a theft.  Really, it depends on:

Criminal Defense for California PC 211 Robbery Charges
  • how violent the individual acts when they take the property,
  • what their criminal record looks like, and
  • what type of property they took.

The prosecutors have some discretion.  Sometimes they'll file a robbery against somebody, which is a strike, a violent felony.

This is definitely something you don't want on your record, but once a good defense attorney starts talking to them about it, they decide to downgrade the charge.

They could eventually file a lesser theft-related offense which is not a strike, which can later be reduced to a misdemeanor as long as the person gets probation and doesn't go to prison.

So, in these type of robbery cases, it's crucial to get somebody like me, who's been doing this for almost three decades and know how to get the best result.

Pick up the phone.  Take the first step.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm has two office locations in Los Angeles County. Contact our la firm for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.