California criminal law prohibits the act of taking another person’s property against their will by use of force or threats. Before you commit the crime, you must have thought about your actions and decided to go ahead and take the property. Robbery is a serious felony, especially when you cause injury or death to another person while committing the crime.

A robbery charge attracts severe legal penalties in a prison sentence, hefty fines, and probation. If you or your loved one is facing criminal charges for robbery, you will require competent legal guidance. At Orange County Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we will help build a strong defense for your case to avoid the harsh penalties that accompany a conviction

Overview of California Penal Code 211 PC

Taking something that belongs to someone else by using force and threats will attract charges under PC 211. The legal definition of robbery is based on these elements of the crime that a prosecutor should establish before you are convicted:

  1. You took something belonging to someone else. Also, moving something away from its owner is considered taking under this statute.
  2. The item you took was in another person’s possession. Per the California robbery law, possession will not only be based on the fact that the person was holding the property. It is enough that they had control over it, and you took away that right. Even when the victim did not own the property but had constructive possession over it, you could be convicted for taking it.
  3. You took the item from the victim or in their presence. A prosecutor will only prove that you committed robbery if it is clear that you took the item in the owner’s presence or directly from them. An item is considered to be in immediate presence if they have physical control over it and could have kept it were it not for your actions.
  4. You took the item against the owner’s will. Lack of consent to take property is one of the most crucial elements a prosecutor must establish before you could be convicted. You are said to take another person’s property against their will if they did not consent. Consent should be offered freely when the persons understand the nature of their decision. For example, when you threaten someone with a weapon and they run, leaving something of value behind which you take afterward, you can be convicted for robbery.
  5. You used force or fear to carry out the crime. Robbery is differentiated from other theft crimes in that robbery involves the use of fear or threats. Before the prosecutor can prove guilt for this offense, they must prove that you used physical force on the victim or threatened to harm the victim or a member of their family. Physical force used during robbery must be significant. Therefore, the minimal touching that occurs during an act of pickpocketing is not enough to qualify as robbery.
  6. When you committed the offense, you intended to deprive the owner of its enjoyment permanently. Robbery is a crime with specific intent. You can only commit the crime with an intention to deprive the victim of permanent or long term enjoyment of its value.

Before you face a conviction under CPC 211, the prosecutor must prove all the above factors beyond a reasonable doubt. With guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney, you could create doubt in the prosecutor’s testimony and the ability to establish all the elements. Such a move will allow you to fight the charges and evade the harsh penalties that accompany a robbery conviction.

There are two major forms of robbery in California, including:

First Degree Robbery

A robbery is considered to be first degree if any of the following factors are true:

  • The crime takes place in an inhabited vehicle, boat, or house. There need not be a person in the house at the time you committed the crime. A house or trailer is considered to be inhabited if there is someone who lives there, whether they are present or not.
  • The victim of your robbery is a passenger or driver of a taxi, bus, streetcar, or hired transportation.
  • A robbery takes place when the victim is using or after using an ATM.

Second Degree Robbery

If you use force or fear to take another person’s property and the crime does not qualify as first degree, you will be charged with a second-degree robbery. Counts of robbery are determined by the number of victims affected by your actions and not the number of items you take. If you use fear or harm multiple people and steal property from one of them, you may be charged with multiple robbery counts. However, stealing many items from a single person could be charged as one count.

Penalties that Accompany a Robbery Conviction

Due to the involvement of physical force to perpetrate the crime, robbery is a serious offense in California. The penalties you face after a conviction depends on the nature in which the offense is charged. A first-degree robbery is charged as a felony. A conviction is punishable by:

  • Felony probation. In California, probation is often offered as an alternative to jail time. When you are sentenced to formal probation, you will be required to adhere to strict probation terms, including payment of all fines and regular check-ins with your probation officer. If you fail to adhere to these conditions, your original prison sentence could be imposed.
  • Prison sentence. If you face a conviction for first-degree robbery, you will face a prison sentence of between three and six years in State prison.
  • Court fines. A conviction for the first-degree robbery under PC211 attracts court fines amounting to $10,000

If you commit a first-degree robbery with two or more people, the potential prison sentence will be increased to 9years.

A conviction for second-degree robbery, on the other hand, attracts the following penalties:

  • Formal probation
  • A prison sentence not exceeding five years
  • Fines not exceeding $10,000

In addition to the above penalties, there are sentence enhancements added to Penal Code 211 consequences. If you caused serious bodily injury to another person while committing an offense of robbery, you could be subjected to California’s great bodily injury enhancement. If your sentence is enhanced, for this reason, your sentence increases by up to six years. 

The use of a firearm to carry out a robbery will cause a sentence enhancement under 10-20-life law. A defendant who uses a gun to commit robbery will receive:

  • An additional ten years sentence for using a firearm
  • A twenty years additional sentence for firing the gun which carrying out a robbery
  • Twenty-five years or life imprisonment for causing death or severe injury on a victim of a robbery

Under California criminal law, PC 211 is a violent felony and a Strike offense. If there is a robbery conviction in your criminal record, subsequent felony offenses are punished by twice the normal felony sentencing. On a third conviction for a felony after the robbery, you will face twenty-five years or life imprisonment. 

Besides the legal consequences of robbery, a conviction in your record could significantly affect our personal and professional lives. Competent legal guidance and representation are crucial if your spouse or loved one faces robbery charges in California.

Legal Defenses against CPC 211 

Being arrested and charged with robbery could be traumatizing. However, there are several ways to defend yourself and work towards facing lighter penalties or dismissing your charges. When taking rehabilitative measures or putting together a legal defense, you need to speak with an attorney. A strong defense for your case could be built around the following arguments:

  1. You were Taking Back your Property

If you commit a robbery because you believed that you were taking back an item that rightfully belonged to you, California criminal law could excuse it. The claim of right defense is only applicable when your belief of rightful property ownership was mistaken. However, it would be best to understand that you could not use the defense when you commit robbery to settle debts that someone else owed you. 

  1. Mistaken Identity

A robbery defendant will face criminal charges after a victim or witness identifies them in a lineup, resulting in numerous mistakes. When one is a robbery victim, the moments when the crime occurs could be confusing and filled with panic. Most robberies occur during the night or while the criminal is wearing a disguise.

A knowledgeable criminal attorney will evaluate the prosecutor’s case and identify whether the evidence on which it is based is reliable. By pointing out loopholes in the evidence and testimony against you, you will have an opportunity to fight the charges.

  1. False Accusations

False accusations are often a basis of robbery charges and other criminal offenses. There are several reasons why someone could falsely accuse you of committing a crime. When the actual criminal is trying to cover up for their actions, you can end up facing accusations for a robbery, of which you know nothing. Sometimes an ex-spouse or another person with whom your relationship has gone sour could bring false allegations against you.

When you are in such a situation, your criminal defense attorney could conduct thorough investigations to identify the case’s facts and present them to the court. If it is clear that the accusations are false, your charges could be dismissed.

  1. Your Rights were Violated during the Arrest

Even when you are suspected of committing a certain crime, you have rights that need to be respected during an arrest. Before the police officers arrest you, they should read you a Miranda of your rights. When your rights are violated during an arrest, then the evidence collected against you may be inadmissible. 

  1. Lack of Sufficient Evidence

Sometimes, robbery charges are based on one witness testimony, especially the victim. Some of the witnesses may even be coerced to give testimony by the police or another person. When there are no other pieces of evidence that point to you as the perpetrator of the crime, you can use insufficient evidence as a defense to your case.

  1. You did not use the Force of Threats to Take Away the Property

Use of force, fear, or threats is a key element that a prosecutor must establish when proving your guilt under Penal Code Section 211 of California law. If the prosecutor in your case fails to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt, the robbery charges cannot stick. The use of physical force is a distinguishing factor between robbery and other crimes involving theft.

When you attempt to take property belonging to another person, they could be intimidated to give you the item even without threats willingly. Therefore, even when you did not use force, you could face charges for another crime, which carries lesser penalties.

FAQS on Robbery in California

The laws surrounding robbery are complicated, especially since there are specific factors that define the crime. If you are battling robbery charges, legal guidance is crucial. The following are some frequently asked questions on arrest and prosecution under CPC 211: 

  1. What is the difference between first and second-degree robbery in California? 

A first-degree robbery offense occurs when the crime occurs in an inhabited dwelling or occurs after the victim leaves an ATM. Causing severe injury to a victim while committing a crime of burglary attracts first-degree charges. Any other form of robbery, on the other hand, falls under the category of the second degree.

  1. Is attempted robbery a strike in California?

Robbery is treated as a violent felony in California. This is because of the physical force that is often used to carry out the crime. The crime is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years and is a strike. Like robbery, attempted robbery is a strike in your record under the Three Strikes Law.

  1. Can I be sentenced to probation after a robbery conviction?

Yes. If you face a robbery conviction, you may be offered felony probation as an alternative to prison sentences. However, it is crucial to understand that probation is not offered to all defendants. Your attorney will have to come up with ways of convincing the prosecutor to offer you probation. Also, there are strict terms of probation you need to adhere to while serving your sentence outside of prison. 

Offenses Related to Robbery in California

The crime or robbery shares specific elements with some other theft crimes and can be charged alongside them. Some of the most common offense related to a robbery in California include:


Whether commercial or residential intending to commit a crime of theft attracts burglary charges when you enter an inhabited structure. Criminal charges for burglary should not be taken lightly since a conviction for the crime results in serious legal consequences. Burglary in California is divided into two categories:

  • First-degree burglary

This crime involves entry in residential property to commit a crime even when it is not occupied at the time you entered. First-degree burglary is a felony that is punishable by a prison sentence of up to six years. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot be granted probation after a first-degree burglary conviction. A felony burglary conviction is a strike under California Three strikes law.

  • Second Degree

All other crime instances that do not involve entry in a residential property fall under second-degree burglary. This offense is a misdemeanor whose conviction is punishable by a three years prison sentence. When you or a loved one is facing charges for burglary in California, legal guidance and representation will go a long way for you.


In California, carjacking is taking a motor vehicle to possess someone else or in their presence by using fear or force. You do not have to take the car directly from the driver. Taking the vehicle in the owner or driver’s immediate presence fits the definition of felonies taking under CPC 215. The prosecution bears the burden to prove the following factors before you face a conviction for carjacking:

  • You took an automobile that was not yours. Taking another person’s vehicle means that you took control of the car and moved it a distance away from the owner. When the prosecutor establishes your guilt, the fact that you touched the vehicle is not important.
  • The vehicle was taken from the immediate presence of the owner or driver against their will. Lack of consent to move the car is one element that a prosecutor needs to establish during a carjacking hearing. You can still face a conviction even when your attempt to take away the vehicle wasn’t successful.
  • When committing the offense, you used force, fear, or threats to prevent the victim from resisting. When you take possession of a vehicle belonging to someone else, you commit the crime of carjacking if you use fear or force to carry out the act.
  • You acted with a specific intent to deprive the owner of temporary or permanent ownership of the vehicle. Carjacking, like most theft offenses in California, requires an intention to deprive the owner of the vehicle’s enjoyment.

If you used physical force to take something away from a person in the vehicle, and while doing so, you moved the vehicle, you could face carjacking charges. Carjacking is a felony, and a conviction for the offense attracts a jail sentence of up to nine years, probation, and fines amounting to$10,000.


CPC 518 defines extortion as an offense involving the use of threat or force to compel someone to hand over their property or money to you. Also, the use of threats to compel a public officer to neglect or perform an act of duty is considered extortion. The crime of extortion has the following elements which need clarity:

  • You threatened another person to cause them injury or expose a secret. For this offense, a secret is any information that another person could be interested in knowing the fact. 
  • You made the threat as a way of obtaining money or property from the other person.
  • As a result of your threats, the victim felt compelled to give in to your demands. Before you face a conviction for extortion in California, the prosecutor needs to prove that the alleged victim felt unsafe and acted by the threat to fulfill your demands.

Violation of CPC 518 is a felony. Should you be convicted for the crime, you will face a prison sentence of four years and a $10,000 fine. A conviction for extortion will have adverse effects on your immigration status. This is because the offense is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Sometimes being convicted for the crime will result in deportation or being marked inadmissible.

Facing charges of robbery alongside extortion could have devastating consequences. Therefore, legal guidance is crucial. By presenting an argument that you were falsely accused or disputing that you acted with the burglary intent, you can fight the charges and avoid the harsh penalties.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Using fear or threats to take away property belonging to someone else will attract criminal charges Under PC 211 of California. Robbery is a serious offense that carries a significant prison sentence and hefty fines. Also, having a criminal conviction for robbery in your record could be detrimental to your personal and professional life.

Facing robbery charges can be devastating, especially when you are falsely accused. Fortunately, an arrest for robbery will not always result in a conviction. With guidance from atop notch attorney, you can develop a defense strategy to fight the charges. Legal guidance will go a long way to protect your rights if you are in this situation. If you are in Orange County, CA, contact  Orange County Criminal Attorney Law Firm at 714-740-7848 and allow us to guide you through the case.