One of the most important things to know about the charge of robbery in California is that all offenses – including robbery – covered by California Penal Codes 211, 212, and 213-15 are classified as felonies. Orange County Criminal Attorney located in Orange County, CA knows a number of defenses that can be used under this law and can employ them on your behalf if you are accused of the crime of robbery.


Robbery and Its Definition

California Penal Code 211 PC offers a basic definition of the crime of robbery. For an action to be classified as a robbery, a person must take the personal property of another person in a manner that is considered felonious while the property is in the possession of the other person. Possession here is defined as either in the immediate presence of the other person or in some way attached to the person. The remaining factor in the definition of robbery is the taking of the personal property against the will of the other person by using either threatening force, or fear, or both.

What this definition means is that certain elements are included which must be present in a scenario for the action taken to be considered a robbery. A prosecutor must prove in court that these elements were constituent parts of the crime that you have been accused of if you are to be judged to be guilty of robbery as a crime.

PC 211 lists these elements and names them as:

  1. The property that you took was not your personal possession;
  2. You took the property while it was possessed another person;
  3. The person you took the property from was in your immediate presence at the time you took the property;
  4. It was against the other person’s will for you to take their property;
  5. You used either force, or fear, or both to remove possessions from another person, and/or you employed these elements of force and/or fear to keep the other person from holding off your intentions; and, finally
  6. While you were employing force, or fear, or both to take the property of the other person, you intended to take that property from the other person forever – or for such an amount of time that you would deprive them of the property’s major value.

This sums up the basic idea of robbery according to the law. But there are also some important distinctions to realize as to the way a charge of robbery can be construed from lesser crimes that are defined in California. These could include:

  • Breaking into a residence (and, by breaking in, committing the offense of burglary) while the residents of the house are inside, threatening or using physical harm upon the residents of the house and then removing personal items from the house;
  • Causing someone to ingest drugs, and then – while they are unconscious – taking their possessions; and
  • Getting caught while taking another person’s property is, in and of itself, only a crime known as either grand or petty theft. However, if you threatened the owner of the property with fear or with bodily harm to give yourself time to escape, you would be guilty of robbery.

It is the element of threatening to use force or causing the other person to fear for their safety, that makes each of these situations likely to be considered a robbery.

Penalties Assessed for a Robbery Conviction

If the crime for which you are accused can be classified as a robbery according to Penal Code 211 PC, then you will face the same sentencing guidelines as any other felony in the state of California. The length of your sentence will only be affected by the seriousness of the charge, depending on whether it is considered a first-degree or second-degree robbery.

California law classifies a robbery of the first degree by considering the following elements:

  • If you took the property of the driver or a passenger who was riding in a taxi, a bus, on a streetcar or cable car, on the subway, or in any other form of public conveyance, you can be charged with first-degree robbery, or
  • If you took personal property inside any inhabited structure, it is considered first-degree robbery, or
  • If you took cash or other personal possessions from a person that used an ATM (automated teller machine) and that person was still in the vicinity of the ATM, you can be considered guilty of robbery.

For any conviction of robbery in the first degree in California, you will face a sentence in state prison of between 3 and 9 years.

For a robbery to be considered second-degree, all the previously-defined characteristics of robbery would be present, but the aggravating circumstances just described would be absent. The penalties for robbery in the second degree in California include terms of either 2, 3, or 5 years served in a California prison.

Robbery Charge Defenses

A veteran attorney will be able to assist you with building a defense if you are accused of robbery as it is defined under California law. It is important for you to know that you have rights according to California law, and to understand how your rights can be used to build a well-planned strategy for your case in court. You have a variety of alternatives when preparing a defense against robbery charges before the courts of California. In the event that you are convicted, a solid defense case may result in your charges being reduced or, if prepared correctly, having your charges dismissed in a conference before trial.

Some of the more often-employed defenses that could be used in your case:

There was no use of fear or force

The main characteristic of robbery charges in California is whether the elements of fear and/or force were used during the commission of the crime. If a prosecutor cannot prove that these elements were present, then the charge of robbery will not stand up to proper evidential standards in a court. You could still be charged with a different crime, as there are a number of similar charges related to theft as defined in California. However, the other related crimes often have lesser penalties; these will likely have a lesser effect on any criminal record that results than the crime of robbery.

The belief that property belonged to you

There is a thing in California known by the term “claim of right” plea that can be used for your defense. If you hold the honest perception that property in the possession of another person rightfully belongs to you, your removal of that property from them or from their premises can be excusable according to California law.

Even if you are mistaken about your claim relating to the property (in other words, it didn’t actually belong to you after all) if you sincerely believed that it did belong to you during the time the robbery was committed, the defense of “claim of right” could still be applied.

There is one situation in which claim of right can never apply: if you apprehended property from the other person because they owed you a debt, then you cannot use the claim of right defense.

The case of your mistaken identity

Many times, defendants in a robbery trial have been identified by the use of a pre-trial lineup of possible perpetrators. It is frequently the case that mistakes are made by the people who identify defendants in such situations – or, that a false accusation has been made.

Similarly, victims often identify perpetrators of a robbery based on items that are circumstantial in terms of evidence. This could be distinguishing items such as ski masks or other disguises; articles of clothing; or even general characteristics such as a person’s height and weight. If there is no face-to-face encounter that allows a potential identification, the court will consider the evidence as circumstantial and generally will not consider it to be reliable.

Experienced criminal attorneys can evaluate the prosecution’s case to see if the presentation is based upon such circumstantial evidence, and should, as a result, allow them to dispute the charges in a robbery case by showing that this type of evidence is flimsy and raising suspicion in the thoughts of jurors.

The case of a false accusation

California juries and judges often hear false accusations in court. This may be due to a number of circumstances. It could be that a person who has committed the crime wants to hide their own guilt, so an accusation could be raised against you. There are certainly cases where a former friend or spouse holds on to jealousy or anger, and they raise a false accusation against you to try and create a situation of control.

Additional Considerations for Defense Against Robbery Charges

There are some additional considerations that an experienced criminal defense attorney might want to highlight as effective in your case.

Affirmative Defense

One of the simplest arguments on your behalf is that the prosecution has not presented sufficient evidence to prove your guilt in the commission of a crime. Or, your attorney may advise you to admit that you did perform the actions that you are accused of but may stipulate that reasons exist and that you should not be held culpable. This could be considered as submitting the “affirmative defense.”

Proving Innocence

It is important to remember that the government must prove the charges placed against you without any reasonable doubt. It is possible to challenge the evidence that the prosecution offers by providing counter-evidence calling into question or outright denies that of the prosecution.

A defendant is not required to prove his or her own innocence. Aided by a qualified defense attorney, you must only manage to raise the issue of reasonable doubt that the arguments by the prosecution are valid. If you and your attorney manage to do this, you are likely to gain an acquittal on all charges.

Voluntary or Involuntary Intoxication

Any defendant that was intoxicated at the moment they committed a crime – whether that intoxication was voluntary or involuntary – can consider raising that intoxication as an element of the affirmative defense.

A person who became intoxicated involuntarily – due to the actions of others or situation outside their control – is usually excused from crimes committed while intoxicated. The defense will need to demonstrate that the intoxication occurred against the person’s will or without personal knowledge.

Voluntary intoxication can be more difficult to use in defense when accused of a crime. However, if the intoxication affected your ability to form an intent in the commission of a crime, it may be allowable. Robbery is a crime that is determined by a specific intent to use force or violence and intoxication could exist as a factor in rendering a person incapable of forming such intent. More than likely, use of this defense would still result in charges of a lesser crime involving either theft, or misuse of alcohol, or both.


Entrapment is a difficult concept to prove in court; however, if a person that was victimized was part of the instigation of a robbery in order to bring a charge against the accused, it could be useful. That is to say, if a person were convinced or manipulated into the commission of an act that they normally would not commit under everyday circumstances, then a defense of entrapment could be used.

If a defendant had already formed the intent to commit the crime – and subsequently was entrapped by another person or a law enforcement officer – this defense does not apply.

Under Duress

If you were threatened by death, or bodily injury, which led you to commit an act considered as robbery, you could be eligible for a defense defined as duress. Duress is difficult to demonstrate but is a very strong defense that is often effective in court. Some courts are very strict in the determination of your ability to avoid committing a crime such as a robbery without risking death or severe injury.

Criminal Defense Attorney (Robbery) Near Me

If you have been accused of the crime of robbery, it is wise to confer with an experienced criminal defense attorney whose experience is in handling robbery cases. The firm known as Orange County Criminal Attorney will be sure that you have every advantage that you are entitled to under the law. You can call Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-831-1858.