Thursday, November 5, 2015

What Counts as "Robbery" in California?

In honor of my 211th Facebook "like", I wanted to devote this post to PC 211.  In California, that code section defines robbery.

Next time you're watching any movie that includes a heist or a bank robbery, pay attention to the background chatter on the police radios.  No matter where the movie takes place, the dispatchers always say, "All units: 211 in progress at (fill in the blank)...".  As mentioned above, 211 is the penal code section that defines robbery in California.  Other states have their own criminal codes with their own numerical designations for specific crimes.  As far as I'm aware, California is the only state that uses "211" to mean "robbery", but I hear it all the time in movies that take place outside of the state.  Whenever you hear that from now on, you can probably guess that the screenwriter is from L.A.

In California, robbery is the crime of taking property from a person by using force or fear.  It should not be confused with burglary.  Burglary is the crime of entering property with the intent to commit theft.  If someone enters your home, points a gun in your face, and forces you to open the safe, then you have been robbed.  If someone enters your house while nobody is home and sneaks off with your T.V., you have not been robbed; you've been burglarized.

To be convicted, the DA must prove that you used "force" or "fear" to commit the crime.  "Fear" may include fear of immediate injury to the victim, or it may include fear of harm to some member of the victim's family or to someone else who is present at the time of the robbery.  "Fear" can even include fear of harm to the property itself.

Robbery can be accomplished with or without a weapon.  The DA does not need to prove that you were armed during the commission of the crime.  Robbery can be committed using bare hands, threats of violence, or simulated weapons (e.g. toy guns, BB guns, etc.).  If you use an actual weapon during a robbery, the DA will charge "enhancements" that may increase your total prison time or make you ineligible for probation.

Robbery in California can be classified into 2 degrees.  First degree robbery includes robbing any driver or conductor of a bus, train, trolley, monorail, street car, etc., or any robbery that occurs inside an occupied house or at an ATM.  All other robberies are considered "second degree".

First degree robbery is punishable by a maximum of 9 years in state prison, depending on the circumstances. Remember, the court can also impose extra prison time if weapons were involved. Second degree robbery can be punished by up to 5 years in prison.

We see a lot of cases where minor shoplifting incidents quickly escalate into something that the DA considers to be "robbery".  A person walks into a liquor store, grabs a beer, and heads for the exit. When a clerk tries to block the door, the person pushes the clerk out of the way and makes his escape.  The act of pushing a shopkeeper can satisfy the "force" element of robbery and elevate this petty misdemeanor into a serious, violent felony.  This is called an "Estes robbery", and the DA will treat it the same as any other second-degree robbery.

Robbery is considered a "strike" in California.  If you are convicted and sentenced to prison, you will earn less "good conduct" credit and you will likely serve a larger portion of your sentence before you become eligible for early release.  With a strike on your record, any prison sentence that you receive in the future will automatically be doubled.  A third strike will send you to prison for 25 to life.

As a serious crime, robbery charges deserve to be taken seriously.  If you or a loved one is accused of robbery in California, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.