WHAT IS ROBBERY?
In a general sense, the crime of robbery is a combination of assault, and theft. Robbery is considered a crime against the person, and a crime against property in California. Pursuant to California Penal Code §211, the crime of robbery is defined as: (1) the taking of personal property, (2) which is in the possession of another person, (3) from that other person in their immediate presence,(4) against their will; (5) and this taking is accomplished by means of force or threats of force.
To maintain a conviction for burglary, the Prosecution must prove five (5) elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
- You took property that did not belong to you,
- At the time of the taking, the property was in the physical possession of another,
- When you took the property, it was without the consent of the person you were taking it from,
- • When you took the property, it was against the will of the person you were taking it from; and
- When you took the property from the other person, you accomplished by use of force or fear to keep the person from resisting.
Since a conviction cannot occur unless the Prosecution proves every element beyond a reasonable doubt, it is important to understand the elements behind a burglary charge. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have ample experience representing clients in a wide variety of criminal matters, including burglary charges. Our attorneys’ extensive knowledge of the intricacies of burglary charges will allow them to effectively navigate the minefield that is criminal law. Understanding the strength and value of each piece of evidence will allow an OCCA attorney to sit down with the Prosecution and advocate for a lesser charge against you. If the case proceeds to trial, your OCCA attorney’s understanding of the law will allow them to negate one, or more, elements of the Prosecution’s case, resulting in a verdict of not guilty for our clients. Ultimately, if your OCCA attorney can’t get you a verdict that allows you to walk free, our attorneys will fight vigorously to obtain the least punishment allowable by law. A detailed analysis of the elements of burglary follows below.
WHAT DOES THE ELEMENT “THE DEFENDANT TOOK PROPERTY THAT WAS NOT HIS/HER OWN” MEAN?
In order to be convicted of robbery, you must first have taken property that does not belong to you; this must be proven by the Prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the prosecution has shown that you took property that did not belong to you, they must next show that you took the property from the victim’s presence, and you accomplished that by force or intimidation. Once that is proven, the Prosecution must next prove that you intended to permanently deprive the person of that property. In a nutshell, burglary represents an enhanced version of theft, or larceny. To put it in a straightforward manner, robbery is a theft which is accomplished through force or fear. Robbery is what is known as a “specific intent” crime, once the property has been taken, paired with the present intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, the crime has been completed; it is no defense to say that you immediately changed your mind and returned the property to the victim.
FOR A ROBBERY CHARGE, WHERE DOES THE PROPERTY NEED TO BE TAKEN FROM?
For burglary to have occurred, the property must have been taken from an area close to the vicinity of the victim, it does not need to have been taken off the person themselves. Thinking about it, this requirement makes sense since the taking must be by force, or threat of force, and if the victim was not in the vicinity of the property, this could not occur. The Courts have made clear that property taken from a room in a house where the victim is presently located is sufficiently close to satisfy this requirement. Ultimately then, robbery does not occur unless the property is taken from the person directly, or from a location close enough for the victim to feel the risk of force or threat of force. In general, the property taken has some intrinsic value, which is properly a fact for a larceny charge. For robbery however, the value of the item is immaterial to a determination of guilt.
The property does not even have to belong to the individual being robbed for a robbery to occur. An example of this could be an agent of a commercial business, bring last week’s cash to the deposit in the bank. If on the way to the bank, with money in hand, the individual is accosted and threatened with a gun if they do not turn over the money, a robbery has taken place. The fact that the money is not technically the agent’s money, it is within their possession, and therefore would serve as the basis for a robbery charge.
TO BE CONVICTED OF ROBBERY, DOES THERE NEED TO BE FEAR OF FORCE?
Another essential element that the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is the use of threat or force. As mentioned above, this is the element that separates this crime from larceny and theft. Common sense dictates that if the property is taken by the use of actual force, this element is satisfied. The “threats” version of this crime, however, requires something a little more specific. In order to constitute a sufficient threat to be prosecuted for robbery, the threats must be threats of immediate death or serious bodily injury to the victim, or the victim’s family or a person present at that time. It is important to note that a threat to cause damage to personal property is insufficient to maintain a conviction for robbery; there is an exception if the threat is to destroy the victim’s residence.
The intent required to be guilty of this crime is to take the property of another person. The intent does not expand to intent to use physical force on the victim, or to cause fear in the victim. "It is enough that the defendant commits a forcible act against the victim motivated by the intent to steal.” In People v. Anderson (2011) 51 C.4th 989, 125 C.R.3d 408, 252 P.3d 968, the Defendant stole another person’s vehicle. After stealing the vehicle, the Defendant ran the victim over with her own car, but claimed it was an accident. After trial, the Defendant was convicted of first degree felony murder (In California, any death that is caused during the commission of a felony, will be charged as a felony murder), based on the underlying conviction for a felony; robbery. The Court has never held that to be convicted of robbery, the Defendant have an intent to cause harm to the victim, only that some quantum of force be used to obtain the property. The only intent necessary, is to permanently deprive the victim of their property through the use of any amount of force, or a sufficient threat.
FORCE OR THREATS MUST BE USED TO OBTAIN PROPERTY OR IMMEDIATELY RETAIN IT
For purposes of a robbery charge, the force, or the threat of force must be employed in an effort to gain, and maintain. Possession after the force, or threat of force, is utilized. That is to say, if the intent to permanently deprive another of their property was formed after the force, or threat of force was used, the requisite intent is not present. For example: The Defendant was unaware that the victim had $1,000 in his wallet. Defendant simply did not like how the victim looked, so he shoved the victim and threatened the victim’s girlfriend. Afraid for his life, the victim reached into his wallet, and handed the Defendant $1,000 dollars. After the money was in his hand, the Defendant was grateful for his good luck and decided to keep the money. The Defendant is not guilty of robbery, since he didn’t form the intent to keep the property until after he had used the force and threat of force. Force or threats must be used either to gain possession of the property or to retain possession immediately after such possession has been accomplished. "The defendant's intent to take the property must have been formed before or during the time he/she used force or fear. If the defendant did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then (he/she) did not commit robbery." CALCRIM 1600
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES IF I AM CONVICTED OF ROBBERY?
Robbery in always a felony. The punishments you will face will vary on the degree of robbery you are charged with. In California, any of the following would be charged as a first degree robbery: the victim is a driver of any type (uber, taxi, bus driver, etc.,), the robbery took place inside a dwelling house, the robbery took place inside a bank; or the robbery took place while the victim was using an ATM.
If you are convicted of first degree robbery, you may face penalties including a maximum fine of ten thousand ($10,000) dollars, felony probation, or incarceration ranging from three (3), four (4), or six (6) years, or a combination. If however, the robbery took place in a dwelling house, and there were two, or more, victims, you will face an enhanced sentence of up to nine (9) years incarceration.
Tall other robberies are considered second degree robbery. If you are convicted of second degree robbery, the penalties will include incarceration of two (2), three (3), or five (5) years in a state prison, a fine not exceeding ten thousand ($10,000) dollars, felony probation, or a combination.
It should be noted that if you committed a robbery with more than one victim, you can be charged multiple times. Thus, if walking down the street you see 3 young, scrawny, men and proceed to rub them, you will be charged with three (3) counts of second degree robbery. This does not extend to taking multiple items from one victim however.
CALIFORNIA'S THREE STRIKES LAW
Pursuant to California Penal Code §211, robbery is automatically considered a violent felony, which will court as a “strike” under California’s “three strikes law.” This means, if during the course of the robbery, you also committed another “strike” felony, you can be sentenced to double the time allowable for the second crime. If you subsequently receive a third “strike”, you could be sentenced up to twenty-five (25) years in state prison. Needless to say, a conviction for robbery can have very far reaching implications for your life.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL DEFENSES MY OCCA ATTORNEY CAN ADVOCATE FOR ME IF I AM CHARGED WITH ROBBERY?
As mentioned above, robbery is always a felony. If you are convicted of this crime, it will go on your criminal background. In this era, where background checks are cheap to do because of all the internet databanks, most employers routinely conduct background check on potential employees. Employers generally do not want to hire people with a criminal background, especially when that crime was a violent felony. Further, since robbery is automatically a violent felony pursuant to California Penal Code §211, if you are convicted of robbery, you will automatically have a “strike” on your record for purposes of California’s “three strikes law.” Because the consequences of a robbery conviction can have such a profound impact on your life in the future, it is important to have competent counsel on your side to vigorously assert your innocence. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have ample experience representing their clients in cases where the stakes are very high. OCCA attorneys know how to handle high pressure situations, and are ready at a moment’s notice to bring their considerable expertise to bear in your defense. If you have been charged with a robbery, contact an OCCA attorney immediately; for a charge of this magnitude, you want the very best attorneys to have as much time as possible to handcraft a defense to keep you from facing the severe penalties associated with a conviction for this type of crime. Some of the defenses your OCCA attorney can put forward in your defense include: You never utilized force, or fear, to obtain the property.
- Mistake of fact, you truly believed the property was yours.
- You were wrongfully accused.
- You were mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of the crime
- You never intended to permanently deprive the victim of the property.
- You developed the intent to permanently deprive the victim after you used physical force.