While many people confuse the crimes of robbery and burglary, they are two very separate crimes under the law. California robbery laws cover thefts that involve the threat or use of force, while the state’s burglary laws don’t necessarily even need to involve theft, but must involve trespassing on someone else’s property with the intent to steal or commit any felony. In some cases, a person can actually be charged with both crimes. While both crimes are serious, the lengthy penalties associated with robbery means that anyone charged with this crime should immediately call a criminal defense attorney.
What is Robbery?
In California, Robbery is defined under the state Penal Code section 211 (PC) as the attempted taking of the property of another person through the use of force or fear. The attempt to deprive the owner of their property need not be successful. Even a minor shoplifting crime can be escalated into a robbery if a security officer attempts to detain you and you struggle with them in an attempt to get away. Even if you don’t get away with the item you were attempting to take, or if you get caught before you leave the property, you could still be charged.
In many cases, this can involves the use of a firearm, and armed robbery can carry far more serious criminal penalties than a robbery committed without the use of a gun. Anyone accused of this very serious criminal offense should immediately contact a San Diego armed robbery lawyer as soon as possible.
First and Second Degree Robbery
There are two levels of charges used in robbery crimes. First degree robbery occurs when:
- there was more than one offender in the crime
- the crime involved the carjacking of a vehicle
- the victim was either a driver-for-hire or passenger in such a vehicle, including a taxi, trolley, bus, etc.
- the incident took place inside an inhabited dwelling, including a home, RV, houseboat, etc.
- the victim was using or just used an ATM
When the crime does not involve any of these unique circumstances, it is considered second-degree robbery.
Robbery Penalties in California
First degree robbery is punishable by between 3 and 6 years in state prison if completed alone or 9 years if it involved an accomplice. The penalty for second degree robbery is between 5 years in state prison. Factors that influence the length of the sentence include:
- The specific details of the incident
- How much danger the victims were put in
- The value of property or money taken
- The suspect’s criminal history
- Whether other crimes took place along with the robbery, such as false imprisonment
- And more
Unlike other theft crimes such as grand theft or petty theft, robbery charges are not dependent on the value of stolen property, nor is it based on how many items were stolen. California robbery law instead bases the number of charges on how many victims there were and an offender will be charged with one count per victim. In other words, if you are charged with robbery and there were 5 alleged victims, you could face up to 25 years in prison if the crime was charged as second degree robbery, or you could face up to 30 years if it was charged as first degree robbery.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that robbery is one of the violent crimes that is always considered a strike under California’s three strikes law. It does not matter whether or not a weapon was used. This means that your sentence will be doubled if you have a prior strike on your record and if you have two previous strikes on your record, you will face life imprisonment. The good news is that your San Diego robbery lawyer can often have the judge overlook a previous strikeable offense so you will not be subjected to the enhanced sentencing.
It’s worth recognizing that “armed robbery” isn’t a specific criminal charge in California, but instead an enhancement to regular robbery charges -and even then, this only applies if a firearm was used in the crime, whereas there is no enhancement if any other form of deadly weapon, such as a knife, was used.
When a robbery in California involves a firearm, the charges will still be filed as first or second degree, but penalty enhancements may be added under California’s 10-20-Life law.This law means that when a gun has been used to commit a crime, an extra 10 years can be added to the time you would otherwise be sentenced to. When the gun was actually fired, an extra 20 years can be added. If someone has suffered from great bodily injury or was killed, the sentence could instantly go up to life imprisonment.
Even if you did not use a firearm, you could face sentencing enhancements if any of the victims suffered great bodily injury. For each victim that suffered great bodily injury, you can face another 3 to 6 years in prison.
Fighting Armed Robbery Charges
It’s important to remember that while it can be very intimidating to be charged with something as serious as armed robbery, you can begin to fight these charges when you contact an experienced robbery attorney in San Diego. The right defense for every case will vary, but the process generally begins with your attorney reviewing police reports, looking at the evidence, thoroughly investigating the case, interviewing witnesses and your alibis. In some cases, the right legal defense is simply arguing the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence. That’s because prosecutors must prove that your actions met the conditions of California’s robbery laws in order to convict you of the crime.
In order for the prosecution to prove that someone committed robbery under California law, the prosecution must show 1) that you intentionally took an item 2) that rightfully belonged to someone else and 3) that you attempted to use force or fear in the process. If your defense attorney can prove that any of these conditions were not met, or even just show that the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove all three, you cannot be rightfully convicted of this charge.
For example, if no violence or threats occurred, this charge is not applicable. Alternatively, if someone broke into another person’s house and threatened them, but the trespasser did not attempt to take anything, it is not a robbery. Another common scenario occurs when someone attempts to take an item from someone else that was the first person’s property to begin with. If you can show that the item you “stole” was actually yours, then you cannot be convicted of any form of theft.
In other cases, the case can come down to questioning the testimony of the witness, whether it means claiming you were a victim of mistaken identity or even if it just means arguing you didn’t have a gun and shouldn’t be subjected to enhanced armed robbery penalties under the California state 10-20-life laws. In some cases, if the police violated your rights during the investigation, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to have the charges against you dropped altogether.
Remember that everything you say can be used against you though and it is all too common for someone to damage their own defense in an attempt to prove their innocence. This is why you should never speak with the police without first making a call to your lawyer.
Similar Criminal Charges
Those faced with robbery are often charged with other offenses as well, including receiving stolen property, carjacking, grand theft, petty theft, grand theft auto, assault, battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, extortion, and burglary. These offenses could add substantial time to your sentence, which is why it pays to hire San Diego robbery attorney with experience handling all types of criminal offenses.
A Note About Bank Robbery
While people commonly associate the charge of robbery with bank robberies, it’s worth noting that bank robberies are typically handled at a federal level because they all insured by the FDIC, making these crimes a federal matter that is investigated by the FBI. This also mean these charges carry much different penalties and sentence enhancements than those detailed by the California state robbery laws detailed under 211 (PC).
If you have been accused of bank robbery, you need to hire someone who handles federal crimes, as not all defense lawyers offer these services. While Mr. Liss primarily handles state matters he does represent individuals on federal criminal cases as well.
If you have been accused of any type of robbery, it is critical you speak with a top criminal defense representative as soon as possible. Peter M. Liss is a top robbery attorney in San Diego with over 35 years experience fighting all types of theft crimes and violent felony offenses. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation today.