California PC 211 | Robbery

In California, robbery is the act of taking personal property of another accomplished by means of force or fear.[1]  Charged under penal code 211 pc, it’s labeled as an inherently danger felony applied to California’s Three Strike laws.  Consequently, a conviction carries a life time strike on someone’s criminal record and will serve as a sentencing enhancement in the event someone commits a another felony.

If a person never actually participated in the robbery itself, they could still be charged if they conspired with another or aided and abetted to the robbery in any manner.  For instance, lending your car to the suspect for the purposes of carrying out the robbery.

An unsuccessful robbery may be an attempted robbery.  Attempted robbery occurs when a defendant commits a substantial step in furtherance of effectuating the robbery.  For instance, showing up at a prearranged robbery location with a loaded gun but having second thoughts and leaving the scene.

Typically, the government charges additional crimes along with robbery including assault, battery, burglary, criminal threats, grand theft, or petty theft.  And if applicable, the prosecutor will conjointly file sentencing enhancements if the robbery was accomplished with the use of a firearm or the robbery was carried out for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Arrested man in handcuffs with hands behind back

Elements to California Robbery – PC 211

Under CALCRIM 1600, in order for someone to be found guilty of robbery (PC 211), the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Defendant took property that was not their own;

2. Defendant took property from someone else or their immediate presence;

3. Defendant took the property against another person’s will;

4. Defendant used force or fear to take the property;

5. Defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property permanently or deprive the owner of a major portion of value or enjoyment to the property.[2]

Legal Defenses to Penal Code 211

  • False Accusations:  False accusations can be done on accident by mistaken identification or on purpose from someone who has known or unknown motivations.  Those who falsely accuse someone could be someone avoiding responsibility when they’re the actual culprit or a person who stands to gain an advantage – e.g., ex-spouse gaining legal custody of children, or as revenge from a prior incident.
  • Taking:  Robbery requires the act of gaining control of another person’s property.  If a suspect never gained control, then a robbery never occurred.  However, that will not prevent the government from charging someone under an attempted robbery theory.  Furthermore, the alleged victim must have possession of the property.  If the property did not belong to them, or they were never granted permission to exercise control over the property, or they were not acting in the capacity of an employee, then a robbery did not occur.
  • Mistaken Identity:  Without the use of scientific evidence, or absent an admission by the accused, there’s always doubt in someone’s culpability when the evidence is solely based on eye-witness identification – scientifically proven to be infallible.  Someone can fall victim to mistaken identification based on a number of factors – e.g., poor lighting, police suggestiveness, a witnesses stress over the event itself, or cross-racial identification.
  • Force:  The force needed to effectuate the taking of the property must be more than incidental touching.  For example, the force employed by a pickpocket would not support a conviction since the minimal force was incidental to grabbing the wallet.[3]  However, grabbing someone’s cellular phone from their hands is sufficient force to accomplish a robbery.
  • Claim of Right: The defense of having a claim of right to the property occurs when someone honestly believes he or she has a right to the property even if the belief is mistaken or unreasonable.[4]  However, this defense only applies to the specific item(s) to be reclaimed and no other property, nor does this defense include unsettled debts.
  • Conspiring with Victim:  If one conspires with the alleged victim to carry out a staged robbery, then the alleged victim was not placed in a state of fear nor was there force used since it was prearranged.  However, this will not prevent the government from filing conspiracy charges, but conspiracy carries far less exposure.

Punishment & Sentencing


PC 211 is distinguished by degrees – first and second degree.  First degree robbery is carried out when the act occurs within an inhabited dwelling.  However, second degree is all other robberies that are not first degree.  Accordingly, first degree robbery is punishable up to nine (9) years in state prison whereas second degree robbery is punishable up to six (6) years.

As noted above, if the government pleads and proves any sentencing enhancements, a person may find themselves facing additional exposure – up to ten (10) years to run consecutive to the underlying robbery conviction.  Furthermore, a robbery conviction is a strike offense which will serve as a sentencing enhancement in the future in the event a person is convicted of a subsequent felony.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Criminal Defense Consultation

There’s no question that these charges are extremely serious.  If you’ve been arrested, charged, or under investigation for robbery, armed robbery, or attempted robbery (PC 211), contact an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation.  Our office represents client’s standing accused in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties.




[1] See California Penal Code 211 for robbery defined – (“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his or her immediate presence, and against his or her will, accomplished by means of force or fear”).

[2] See CALCRIM No. 1600.

[3] See same; see also People v. Garcia (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1242.

[4] See same.

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