What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove in a Robbery Case?
The crime of robbery is encoded in Section 211 of the California Penal Code. Under Section 211, the prosecution must demonstrate each criminal element with evidence.
The defendant took someone else’s property.
First, the prosecution must show that the defendant took property that did not belong to them. The defendant must have taken the property from the victim’s possession and immediate presence.
It is important to note that “possession” does not require physical control. It only requires control or the right to control the property in question. In fact, the victim does not even need to be the actual owner of the property, as long as they control the property and it is close enough that they can exercise physical control if they so choose. This is known as the “immediate presence” requirement.
For example, if a person is resting on a park bench and their bike is sitting a few feet away resting against a tree, the bike would be considered within their immediate presence.
The defendant took the property against the victim’s will.
If the alleged victim consents to the property being taken, it is obviously not robbery. So the prosecution must show that the victim did not freely and voluntarily allow the defendant to take the property.
The property was taken using fear or force.
In a robbery case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant used fear or force to take the property. This might include actual infliction of physical harm or the threat of physical harm (e.g., the brandishing of a gun or knife).
Furthermore, the victim does not have to be the subject of the fear or force. The fear or force could be directed at the victim’s family member or property. For example, if a person threatens to slash the tires on another person’s car unless the victim gives up their cellphone, that would be considered physical force.
The defendant deprived the victim of the property.
Finally, the prosecution must show that the defendant deprived the victim of the property. There is more to this element than it seems. The deprivation does not necessarily have to be permanent. It could be temporary. The only requirement is that it is sufficient to deprive the victim of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.
What Is the Difference Between Robbery, Burglary, and Theft?
Most people consider the terms robbery, burglary, and theft interchangeable. However, the California penal code treats them as individual crimes, with each having their own provisions and their own penalties.
Robbery is a felony charge. It involves using force or fear to illegally take property from the immediate presence of another person. In other words, this is a person-on-person crime. The use of force may be as simple as a threat or as serious as using a weapon.
Breaking into private property without permission is considered burglary. Unlike robbery, burglary requires no person-to-person contact. The stolen items do not have to be within the immediate presence of the victim, and no use of force is required.
The element of intent plays a unique role in a burglary charge. The person must break into the property with the intent of committing a felonious act. The person does not have to actually perpetrate the act to be charged with burglary.
For example, if a person breaks into an IT company with the intention of stealing the database servers but leaves after realizing the servers are too heavy to carry, the person would still be charged with burglary because they had the intent to commit theft, a felonious act.
Theft is perhaps the simplest of the three crimes. It entails the taking of someone else’s property. Unlike robbery, the property does not have to be in the immediate presence of the victim, and there is no use of force. It differs from burglary in the sense that the property can be out in the open. The defendant does not have to enter private property to take it.
For example, a person is working on their computer in a park. They get up to go use the restroom and leave their laptop on a picnic table. If someone walks off with their computer while they are gone, theft would be the likely charge.
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Common Defenses to Robbery
There are many effective defenses to robbery charges. A Los Angeles robbery defense attorney can review the specific details of your case and determine what type of strategy makes sense for you.
Some of the common defenses include arguing that:
- The defendant owned the property.
- The victim willingly gave the property to the defendant.
- The victim did not have control over the property, or the property was not in their immediate presence.
- The defendant was a victim of mistaken identity.
- The defendant was falsely accused.
- Law enforcement did not follow proper procedures.
If you are ready to discuss your defense, contact us today for a free case review. We are here to answer your questions and help you identify all your options.
Penalties for a Robbery Conviction
Under Penal Code 211, robbery is considered a felony. There are also two kinds of robbery under the code: first-degree robbery and second-degree robbery.
A robbery is considered in the first-degree if it took place in an enclosed dwelling, trailer, floating home trailer coach, part of a building, or near an ATM. The penalties for first-degree robbery include:
- 3 to 5 years in a state prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000
All other types of robbery are considered second-degree, triggering the following penalties:
- 2 to 5 years in a state prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000