It is wrong to threaten or to take possession of another’s property without their consent. The act is considered to be both morally wrong and illegal in most jurisdictions, if not all. Such actions are referred to as robbery. Hefty fines and jail terms are issued against robbery convicts as penalties for the crime. The pursuit of convicting those accused of robbery has created a loophole in the system. Many have been wrongfully accused of participating in robberies, and the pressure to prosecute often leads to less than stellar investigations. The consequences of a robbery conviction would be grave and ones you should not face, especially if you were wrongfully accused.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney’s team understands the burden of a robbery case. As such, we help Los Angeles residents fight these charges by representing them in robbery matters.
Robbery as Described in Law
Under Penal Code 211, it is a crime to take another’s property without their consent while depriving the owner of the benefits of the property. This is the definition of robbery as per Penal Code 211. Certain elements need to be proven for one to be guilty of the crime. These elements are the basis of the prosecution’s case against you. They are:
- Taking another’s property – which means gaining possession of another’s property. You could do this by either moving the property over a distance or assuming ownership of it.
- The ownership of the property belonged to another – Under the robbery law, what is interrogated is the ownership rights. It, therefore, means that you will be culpable of the crime if you take property from one who has ownership rights as well as another to whom the rights were transferred. If one receives transferred ownership rights, they control and enjoy the benefits of the property under constructive possession.
- You took control of the property in the immediate presence of the owner or another who had constructive possession of the property. Your actions in this instance deny the robbed party the ability to retain physical control of the property.
- Your actions were against the owner’s will – Consent is critical in a robbery case. You will be held liable for robbery charges if the owner did not give their consent when you assumed control of the said property.
- Your actions intended to deprive the owner of the benefits of the property – you will be found guilty of the crime if it is apparent that you intended to deprive the owner of the benefits of the property. The period considered by the courts is that which is long enough to deprive the owner of a significant portion of the value generated by owning the property.
- You used intimidation - The use of force or fear is what distinguishes robbery from theft crimes. The prosecution will need to prove that you used physical force to take possession of the property. Conversely, through your actions, the victim feared for themselves, their family members, or another. A victim’s fear extends to any form of injury. Therefore, if the victims were drugged, the court will deem drugging as a use of force.
Various Forms of Robbery Cases
Robbery cases are prosecuted in either of the two channels. Prosecutors may pursue first-degree robbery or second-degree robbery convictions. Prosecutors determine what charges they prefer against you having looked at the circumstances in your case.
A robbery is deemed to be of the first degree if any of the following aspects are true.
- The robbery was carried out in an inhabited boat, house, or trailer. Inhabited, in regards to robbery, is if the property is occupied, but at the time of the robbery, the owner had stepped out or was within the premises.
- The victim operated a means of transport. Taxis, buses, subways, streetcars, cable cars, and trackless trolley operators from the list of victims in this category, or
- The victim was robbed after transacting on an ATM.
Any other circumstances related to a robbery case that is not mentioned in the above first-degree murder scenarios are treated as a second-degree robbery matter.
First-degree robbery charges are penalized differently from second-degree offenses. The court seeks to punish the offender based on the severity of the circumstances in the case.
Penalties for Robbery Convictions
Robbery crimes are punishable by a jail term, probation sentence, or a fine. All three penalties vary in both the first and second-degree robbery charges. The judge issues the sentences guided by Penal Code 211.
First-degree robbery offenses are prosecuted as felonies. If convicted, formal probation terms of three to five years and a fine of no more than $10,000 may be issued against you. The judge may decide that the crime warrants a jail sentence, in which case you will spend three, four, or six years in prison. However, if you had two or more accomplices in the crime, your jail terms increase to three, six, or nine years.
Second-degree robbery offenses also fall in the felony category. You may be required to pay up to $10,000 in fines, and serve a prison sentence of two, three, or five years. A judge may also issue a formal probation sentence, as is the case in first-degree murder convictions.
The judge and the jury pay particular focus on the value of the property (and not the number of items in your possession) and the number of victims in the robbery case. Therefore, you are liable for one count of robbery offense if you robbed one victim, regardless of the items you took in your possession. It also follows that you will face two counts of robbery charges if there were two victims in your robbery case.
Sentence Enhancement for Penal Code 211 Violations
Sentence enhancements are options a judge will consider if you have aggravating circumstances in your case. These circumstances include injury to a victim and the use of a firearm.
Serious Bodily Injury Enhancement, Penal Code 12022.7
Should a victim suffer serious bodily harm during the robbery, you will be subject to the penalties under Penal Code 12022.7. It provides that three to six years be added to your prison sentence.
The Use of a Firearm, Penal Code 12022.53
Penal Code 12022.53 provides for sentence enhancements for defendants who use guns when committing robberies. Ten years is added for those who use a firearm in a robbery. If you used a rifle to commit the crime and you intentionally discharged it, you will face an additional twenty years in jail. In instances where there was grave injury inflicted on a victim or the victim was shot and killed, you will be facing twenty-five years to life in prison.
Robbery is a strike offense in California. A strike will be added to your records if convicted for the crime. This step is pursuant to the provisions of the Three Strike Law in California. A strike means that you face twice the standard felony sentences. Should you have three strikes in your record with one being a robbery conviction, you will be sentenced to twenty-five years behind bars.
The penalties are indeed harsh, and if convicted, you may spend significant time away from your loved ones as well as parting with hefty sums in fines. However, through your attorney, you can set up a defense strategy to prove your innocence in the matter.
Defenses in Robbery Cases
Robbery cases have varying circumstances. By assessing your case, a criminal defense attorney is sure to determine what defense best suits your situation. Here is a look at some of the most common defense arguments used.
Claim of Right
It can be argued that you believed you had ownership rights to the merchandise deemed to have been stolen. In such a situation, you are reclaiming what was yours. You may have an unreasonable or a mistaken claim, but it does not take away your belief of ownership. The courts will excuse the robbery charges against you if proven that your claim on the property was genuine. However, cases of robberies aimed at settling debts cannot use this defense.
Lack of Fear and Force
Prosecutors must prove that you used force while taking control of the property. Further, they need to demonstrate that the force caused the victim to fear for their safety as that of their family or any person within the scene of the incident. Without force, you are not liable for violations of Penal Code 211.
On the other hand, the lack of force does not take away the victim’s fear during the robbery. They could have been intimidated and decided to hand over the property. If so, you will face other changes other than Penal Code 211 violations.
Charges are based on a False Accusation
Cases of false accusations in robbery charges are common. They are born of jealousy, a pursuit for revenge, anger, and in other instances, allegations by the actual perpetrators of the crime to cover their tracks. An independent investigation or cross-examination of the prosecutor’s witness should offer evidence to support this defense.
Case of Mistaken Identity
Pretrial lineups are the most used forms of robbery defendant identification. The process relies on the victim’s recollection of the robber. In most robbery cases, the perpetrators often wear masks or carry out the robberies in the cover of darkness. Further, victims are shaken in such situations, thus compromising their recollection of the robbers. All these scenarios complicate identifying a robbery suspect.
Unless the prosecution provides video evidence, DNA samples, or any other concrete evidence that proves you were the robber, their case will be based on circumstantial evidence. Thus your attorney can argue that you were a victim of mistaken identity.
If you were pushed to commit a robbery that you would not have otherwise committed, you could argue entrapment as a defense. You will have to prove that another coerced you to rob, and as a result, robbery charges were brought forth.
How Robbery Accomplices are Charged
The courts use aiding and abetting laws, Penal Code 31 as a guide to prosecuting robbery accomplices. Penal Code 31 is a guiding principle to punish individuals who were a party to the crime even if they were not present at the scene of the crime.
To break it down, aiding and abetting refers to helping another to commit a crime. Prosecutors need to show that:
- You had prior knowledge of the illegal plan
- You participated in the crime by facilitating and/or encouraging its occurrence
You will also be held culpable of being an accomplice if you were aware that the crime was underway and decided to promote, facilitate, or encourage its occurrence.
As an accomplice, the prosecution will not bring forward aiding and abetting charges against you. Instead, they will charge you for robbery and introduce the argument that you were an aider and abettor in the crime. They will provide the following aspects to prove their case:
- You were the perpetrator’s companion
- You were present at the crime scene
- Your conduct before or after the robbery is consistent with that of an aider or abettor
The aspects above are not conclusive evidence of your guilt but evidence to support the prosecution’s theory of your part in the robbery. From the above factors, it may seem that presence is critical in determining your liability as an accomplice. However, it is not the only matter. If you encouraged or promoted the crime, but you were not physically present to help further the crime, you will be found guilty.
Knowing about the crime is also not enough to determine your guilt. Your actions after your knowledge are the more crucial elements. You must take the necessary steps to prevent a crime. If you failed to act, then you will be convicted as a robbery aider and abettor.
Aiders and abettors face robbery charges as the perpetrator of the crime. A conviction means that you face similar penalties as those of the perpetrator.
Defenses for Robbery Aiding and Abetting Charges
The penalties you stand to face if convicted of robbery charges are grave. It, therefore, makes it imperative to fight the accomplice link. The defenses below are pivotal to achieve this pursuit.
- You were falsely accused. This defense works primarily in situations where there is no evidence to support the prosecutor’s claim. False accusations are common when jealousy, hatred, and anger motivate another to implicate you in the crime.
- You did not aid, facilitate, or encourage the commission of the robbery. All an attorney needs to prove is that you did not intentionally engage in any of the acts mentioned above.
- You withdrew as a participant in the robbery before it was committed. You pulled out by notifying all parties to the crime and that you did everything possible to prevent the occurrence of the crime.
- You did not have any duty to prevent crime. Therefore, any knowledge of the robbery and presence at the scene does not prove your guilt as an aider or abettor.
- Your participation in the robbery was after the crime was committed. In such a situation, you may be convicted and punished for being an accessory after the fact.
Offenses Related to Robbery
Prosecutors aim for a conviction in their cases. At times, that conviction comes by adding other charges or introducing new ones. They use this strategy if the suit against you is not an outright win. Prosecutors will forward these charges to you during plea bargain negotiations. An experienced attorney can take advantage of this opportunity to seek a reduction of the charges against you or recommend that you take a plea to other less stringent charges.
Here is an assessment of violations of various laws related to robbery cases.
Kidnapping, Penal Code 207
Penal Code 207 describes kidnapping as the act of moving a robbery victim over a considerable distance. Kidnapping is a common charge attached to robbery offenses and is regarded as a grave offense in California. In most cases, the crime is incidental to robbery charges and once convicted, you may end up serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, especially if tried for aggravated kidnapping. Simple kidnapping cases carry an eight-year jail sentence.
Kidnapping charges may be escalated from a simple kidnapping matter to aggravated kidnapping if the following aspects are the circumstances in your case.
- You caused grave bodily injury on one of your victims or death
- You kidnapped another while carjacking the victim
- You intimidated your victims and a child under 14 years happened to be one of them
- A ransom demand followed the kidnap
Kidnapping is a strike-able offense, and a conviction will result in a strike in your records as per the three-strike law in California.
Carjacking, Penal Code 215
It is criminal for you to take another’s car in their presence using fear, intimidation, or force. It is a violation of Penal Code 215. The victim of a carjacking incident according to the law is the owner of the vehicle, a driver, or a passenger. This means that if any of the above victims feature in your case, you are guilty of carjacking charges.
Carjacking crimes are felonies. If convicted, a nine-year jail sentence will be imposed. Your case is further complicated if you used a gun to intimidate the victim(s), or you injured the victim(s). Add kidnapping and instances of carrying out the carjacking crime to gain gang status, and you will have harsher sentencing. Violations of Penal Code 215 are strike offenses. Therefore, a conviction of the crime means a strike added to your history.
Burglary, Penal Code 459
Burglary, under Penal Code 459, is defined as the entry of a residence, or car to commit a felony. Prosecutors almost automatically introduce burglary charges alongside robbery charges. This decision is informed by the fact that robbery cases also occur in premises and vehicles.
Burglary committed in private homes is a felony, whereas if carried out in any other place other than a private residence, it is pursued as a misdemeanor. A felony conviction is punishable by a two, four, or six-year imprisonment.
Grand Theft, Penal Code 487 and Petty Theft, Penal Code 488
Illegally taking another’s property without their express consent and without using intimidation falls under two categories. That is grand theft and petty theft. You violate Penal Code 487 when the property’s value exceeds $950. Any property illegally taken whose value is below $950 is prosecuted as petty theft. Therefore, shoplifting and pickpocketing offenses will be charged under California’s grand or petty theft laws.
Prosecutors have the discretion of pursuing felony or misdemeanor charges. If prosecuted with felony charges, you could spend sixteen months, two, or three years in prison for the offense. You could seek a reduction of your robbery charges to petty or grand theft. It is an option many utilize to serve easier penalties.
Extortion, Penal Code 518
Forcing another using threat or causing fear so that they can give you property or money is extortion and a violation of Penal Code 518. With robbery, the victim does not consent to transfer property to the robber. However, for extortion cases, the owner gives consent. The only issue is that the consent is given through fear and intimidation.
Extortion matters are pursued as felonies. The crime is punishable with a prison sentence of two, three, or four years behind bars. You will also be required to pay a $10,000 fine.
Hire a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Fighting robbery charges is no easy task. You will need an experienced attorney to pinpoint the loopholes in the robbery charges you face as well as prove your innocence in the matter. In some situations, the evidence presented may require pleading to lesser charges. An attorney should advise you on the best option to take based on the circumstances of your case. We make it our mission to help defendants of robbery cases seek an acquittal or have their charges reduced. It all starts with an assessment of your situation. Give us a call today at 310-564-2605 and let us set up a consultation.