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Robbery Laws & Defense

Penal Code 211

Information on the crime of robbery is found at California penal code 211. 

Robbery Laws

PC 211: Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.

PC 212.5(a): Robbery that is committed while in transit, such as in a cab, bus, trolley car, etc., or robbery that is committed in a residence is considered to be first degree robbery [Abbreviated]. 

PC 212.5(b): Every robbery of any person while using an automated teller machine or immediately after the person has used an automated teller machine and is in the vicinity of the automated teller machine is robbery of the first degree.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime of robbery the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant took property that was not his
  • The property was taken directly from a person
  • The property was taken against the will of the other person
  • The defendant used force or fear to the property from the other person, or the defendant prevented the other person from being able to resist
  • The defendant intended to permanently deprive that other person of the value of the property

In short, robbery is theft of property from another person by force against the other person, or by implied or express threats against the other person (PC 211).

The value of the property does not matter. For example, if the defendant takes a wallet from another person in the act of robbery but the wallet turns out to be empty, the defendant may still be charged with robbery despite the fact that empty wallet itself has very little value.

The force used does not have to be extreme but it has to be more than instantaneous, slight, and more than what is needed to actually take the property. For example, taking a woman's purse by grabbing it and breaking the strap might not be robbery if the woman otherwise was not harmed. Also, a defendant who pick pockets another person without the other person even knowing that he or she was pick-pocketed is not likely to be charged with robbery even though technically some force was used against the victim.

The Fear required in robbery law is fear of bodily harm to the other person, the other peson's family, or someone else that the defendant is with at the time of the robbery. The fear must be reasonable. 

Preventing another person from being able to resist is not the same as fear of the consequences of resisting. For example, if the defendant drugs another person to take that person's property after the other person is rendered unconscious by the drugs, then the defendant may be charged with robbery because he or she rendered the other person incapable of resisting, even though the defendant never used force (such as a struggle) or fear to take the property. 

Punishment for Robbery (PC 211)

Prison Sentence: All robbery crimes are classified as felonies. The most common robbery offense is PC 211, which has been defined above. If found guilty of PC 211 the defendant may be sentence to prison for up to five (5) years. Robbery in the first degree carries a six (6) year sentence. Robbery in the first degree charges are filed when the robbery takes place in a transit vehicle, such as a taxi, bus, trolley, etc. or when the robbery takes place in a residence.

Strike Offense: Robbery Crimes are considered serious and violent under California law and are subject to California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law. This means that if the defendant is found guilty of robbery, and is sentenced to prison, he or she will earn less good conduct credits towards reducing the actual time spent in prison. Also, a conviction of a strike offense will enhance penalties upon any subsequent conviction for any felony offense. Finally, because robbery is considered to be a violent crime the defendant, if sent to prison, will not be eligible for early release on parole (Prop 57).

Note: The crime of attempted robbery (PC 213(b)) is not considered to be a violent crime. Also, Good conduct credits earned in prison for convictions of PC 213(b) are at the rate of 50% (as opposed to only 15% for all other robbery crimes).

Crime of Moral Turpitude: Robbery is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude, which means that the crime is considered to be morally wrong. Crimes of moral turpitude carry special punishment for immigrants, and licensed professionals (i.e. doctors, dentist, lawyers, nurses, etc.).

Firearm Prohibition: A conviction for any felony, including PC 211 robbery convictions, carry a lifetime ban on ownership or possession of a firearm.

Gun Enhancement: If the defendant personally used a firearm during a robbery he or she will could face an enhancement to the robbery charged that may add ten to twenty (10-20) years to the defendant's prison sentence depending on whether the firearm was discharged (PC 12022.5(a) & PC 12022.5(c)). Also, if a firearm was used in the commission of a robbery that caused great bodily injury the defendant could face twenty-five (25) years to life in prison (PC 12022.53(d)).

Additional Penalties for PC 211: Fines, criminal protective orders, civil lawsuits, probation or parole terms, loss of employment, loss of rights in family law court (adoption, child custody, etc.), possible anger management classes, possible registration as a gang member (depending on the circumstances), and more.

Defense to Robbery Charges

Every robbery case is different and therefore every defense will be different; however, common defenses to robbery charged under PC 211 include:

  • Insufficient Evidence to prove the crime or any element of the crime, such as the intent to permanently deprive the property owner of the property, or lack of force or reasonable fear in the alleged victim
  • Mistake of Fact, such as a true belief by the defendant that the alleged victim had just robbed someone else and was fleeing the scene with the robbed property
  • Claim of Right, such as the true belief by the defendant that the alleged victim was stealing the property of the defendant
  • Statute of Limitations (three years in most robbery cases, including PC 211)
  • Intoxication, including voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol sufficient to render the defendant incapable of forming the specific intent to commit robbery
  • Insanity, such as when the defendant suffers from a disease or defect of the mind that he or she does not know right from wrong or can appreciate the nature and quality of his or her actions
  • Coerced Confessions and other police investigation misconduct
  • Alibi Defense, and more.

If you or a loved one is charged with robbery, or penal code 211, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Our attorneys are successful and experienced in major crimes and we are available seven days a week to answer all of your questions. Call today!


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Robbery Defense: PC 211

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Robbery related Crimes

  • Robbery in the first degree PC 211
  • Robbery in transit PC 212.5(a)
  • Robbery in a residence PC 212.5(a)
  • Robbery of an ATM PC 212.5(b)
  • Attempted Robbery 213(b)
  • Train Robbery PC 214
  • Carjacking PC 215(a)
  • Assault PC 245
  • Criminal Threats PC 422
  • Robbery w/ a firearm enhancement PC 12022.5(a)
  • Robbery w/ a firearm causing PC 12053(b)

Theft Related Crimes

  • Accessory to Robbery
  • Acquire Access Cards (Credit Card Fraud)
  • Attempted Robbery
  • Bribery
  • Residential Burglary
  • Commercial Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Check Fraud
  • Chop Shop Crimes
  • Conspiracy to Commit Robbery
  • Corporal Injury
  • Counterfeiting
  • Domestic Battery
  • Elder Theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • False Personation
  • Forgery
  • Identity Theft
  • Insurance Fraud
  • Looting
  • Money Laundering
  • Mortgage Fraud
  • Petty Theft
  • Poaching
  • Profiteering
  • Racketeering (RICO)
  • Robbery
  • Robbery of ATM
  • Shoplifting
  • Tax Fraud
  • Theft
  • Theft by False
  • Theft by Trick
  • Pretenses
  • Unauthorized Use of Taking of Vehicle
  • Vehicle Theft
  • Welfare Fraud
  • White Collar Crimes

California Robbery Laws & Defense PC 211


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