Robberies – and most particularly armed robberies – are considered to be crimes of violence and are therefore prosecuted and sentenced as such. (However, for purposes of our website, since the primary motive of this crime is to obtain money or property, we consider robbery to be a “theft crime”.)
Robbery is what’s called a “specific intent” crime, which means that you intentionally tried to, or in fact did, rob the victim. In other words, you intended to either completely deprive the owner of his/her money or property, or otherwise planned on depriving him/her of the property long enough to deprive him/her of the majority of its use/enjoyment.
See People v. Avery (2002) 27 Cal.4th 49, 57–58.
Theft Crimes – Categories of Robbery Crimes
Robberies fall under the following categories:
First-Degree Robbery (California Penal Code section 212.5)
Second-Degree Robbery (California Penal Code section 211)
First-Degree Burglary (Home-Invasion Robbery) (California Penal Code section 459)
“Estes Robbery” (California Penal Code section 211)
This last category is a crime that initially starts out as a simple misdemeanor Shoplifting (California Penal Code section 459.5) or Petty Theft (California Penal Code section 486); (California Penal Code section 490.2), but escalates to a robbery charge if you threaten or actually use force against a store employee who tries to stop you.
See Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) number 3261 (“While Committing a Felony: Defined—Escape Rule”).
Theft Crimes – Robbery/Armed Robbery -- “Strikes”
Robbery charges are typically charged as Strike Offenses (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b)), which means the charge against you will either be classified as a “Violent Felony” under California Penal Code section 667.5(c)), or as a “Serious Felony” under California Penal Code section 1192.7.
A Strike-offense conviction can result in sentencing enhancements ranging anywhere from five years on top of your original robbery-conviction prison term all the way up to 25-to-life, depending on how many Strikes, if any, are on your record.
And even if this is your first Strike conviction, you’ll still have to serve at least 85% of your sentence, even with good behavior. (However, because of current overpopulation in the California prison system, this minimum incarceration with good-time credits has been temporarily reduced to 66 percent.)
California Statutes – Theft Crimes -- Robbery/Armed Robbery
California Penal Code section 212.5 (First-Degree Robbery; Second-Degree Robbery):
This statute identifies the following types or robbery as First-Degree Robbery:
- Robbery of a driver of any vehicle, including a train, that transports passengers (this would include any Uber vehicle, and also includes the crime of “Carjacking” under California Penal Code section 215);
- Robbery of any such passenger;
- Robbery of anyone inside a residence (includes “Home Invasions”);
- Robbery of anyone in a “vessel”, inhabited vessel, such as a house boat, or an inhabited trailer/coach/motor home as per California Harbors and Navigation Code section 21), California Health and Safety Code section 18075.55, and the California Vehicle Code;
- Robbery of anyone using an ATM or right after he/she used one (while in the same area).
California Penal Code section 212.5(a)&(b):
Any robbery not falling under any of the foregoing categories is charged as Second-Degree Robbery. Penal Code section 212.5(c).
Please note that if you rob someone in your own residence, you will still be charged with First-Degree Robbery.
See People v. Alvarado (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 1165, 1169 (Alvarado allegedly lured back several victims to his own motel room for the purpose of robbing them).
See also CALCRIM number 1602 (“Robbery: Degrees -- Pen. Code § 212.5”).
California Penal Code section 211 (Definition of Robbery):
This statute briefly defines the crime of Robbery as you illegally (by committing a felony) removing the victim’s personal property from his/her person/presence against his/her desire and by using violence or threats.
See also the Strike offense of Making a Criminal Threat (California Penal Code section 422).
Keep in mind that the violence or threats could be made against a third party – specifically, a member of the victim’s family – and may also be force or threats made against the victim’s or that family member’s property. If the latter is the case, however, you won’t be charged with a Strike for Making a Criminal Threat, though you will still be charged with a Robbery Strike.
Finally, if you slipped the victim any substance to incapacitate him/her for the purpose of robbing him/her, then you will be charged with using force in doing so.
See People v. Dreas (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 623, 628–629.
California Penal Code section 213(a)(1)(A) (Robbery in Concert):
This statute includes you working with at least two other people to commit a robbery, and if committed against someone under the circumstances described in Penal Code section 212.5(a)&(b), will be considered First-Degree Robbery.
Keep in mind that First-Degree Robbery can be charged against you and your cohorts even if the robbery occurred spontaneously (i.e., with premeditation or deliberation).
See also CALCRIM number 1601 (“Robbery in Concert -- Pen. Code § 213(a)(1)(A)”).
California Penal Code section 664 & section 211 (Attempted Robbery):
If you unsuccessfully try to rob someone, you will be charged under these two statutes.
Theft Crimes Convictions – Robbery/Armed Robbery
Under this provision, a First-Degree Robbery conviction entails a prison sentence of 3, 6, or 9 years, and a Second-Degree Robbery conviction comes with a prison sentence of 2, 3, or 5 years.
California Penal Code section 664 & section 211 (Attempted Robbery):
If you are convicted of unsuccessfully trying to rob someone, then you’ll get a prison sentence equal to one-half whatever you would have received had you been convicted of First-Degree Robbery or Second-Degree Robbery.
Theft Crimes Convictions – Robbery/Armed Robbery -- Sentencing Enhancements
In addition to enhancements relating to a Strike-offense conviction California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b)); California Penal Code section 667.5(c) (“Violent Felonies”); California Penal Code section 1192.7 (“Serious Felonies”)), you will also receive additional years on your underlying sentence if you committed robbery under any of the following circumstances:
Personal Discharge of a Firearm During the Commission of a Serious Felony (California Penal Code section 12022.53(c))
Inflicting Great Bodily Injury (GBI) (California Penal Code section 12022.7)
Serious injury is defined as “great bodily injury” (California Penal Code section 12022.7).
Gang Enhancement (California Penal Code section 186.22)
Injuring an Elderly Person (California Penal Code section 368(b)(2))
The precise additional term will depend on your particular circumstances, but generally you can expect at least an additional five years added to your prison term.
Similarly, if you kidnap someone while robbing or intending to rob them, you’ll be charged with Aggravated Kidnapping – Robbery, Rape, Other Sex Offenses (California Penal Code section 209(b)), which could carry a life sentence under certain circumstances.
See also CALCRIM number 1203 (“Kidnapping: For Robbery, Rape, or Other Sex Offenses -- Pen. Code § 209(b)”).
Defenses to Theft Crimes Charges -- Robbery/Armed Robbery
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF) has enjoyed tremendous success in fighting Robbery charges by using many of the following defenses:
(1) The property taken was actually your own (or, alternatively, you sincerely believed it was your own – “claim of right”);
(2) The property taken wasn’t in the possession of someone else;
(3) The property wasn’t taken from another person or from his/her immediate presence;
(4) You didn’t take the property against another person’s will (i.e., he/she freely consented to you
(5) You didn’t use violence or the threat thereof to take the property;
(6) You didn’t use violence or the threat thereof to prevent the other person from resisting;
(7) If you did use violence or the threat thereof, you didn’t intend to permanently deprive the other person of his/her property (or, alternatively, you didn’t intend to deprive him/her of the property for such a long period as to deprive him/her of a major portion of its value or enjoyment);
(8) You didn’t form the intent to deprive him/her – either permanently or for a long period – until after you used violence or the threat thereof;
(9) The purported victim was never actually afraid of you – even if you threatened him/her;
(10) You didn’t personally commit or aid or abet the robbery;
(11) You didn’t form the intent to aid and abet the robber before the robbery or while he/she was absconding with the property;
See CALCRIM number 1600 (“Robbery -- Pen. Code § 211”).
See also CALCRIM number 1863 (“Defense to Theft or Robbery: Claim of Right”).
Please note that the Claim of Right defense only works if you are attempting to retrieve from the purported victim the specific piece of personal property you believed was wrongfully taken from you.
In other words, you can’t rob the victim because he/she owed you some kind of debt. Also keep in mind that if you use a gun while trying to reclaim your property, you will almost certainly be charged with some other felony (though, of course, not Robbery).
See People v. Tufunga (1999) 21 Cal.4th 935, 945–950.
See also CALCRIM number 1603 (“Robbery: Intent of Aider and Abettor”).
A Sampling of Theft Crimes Cases Robbery/Armed Robbery -- Handled by the LADALF
Former Disney TV Star Charged with Multiple Counts of Armed Robbery; Facing 33 Years
People v. Adam Hicks (Burbank Courthouse -- Charged 01/2018, Ongoing)
On January 25, 2018, just before dawn, our client Adam (age 25 at the time) was arrested by Burbank PD on suspicion of committing a string of armed robberies over the course of approximately ten minutes.
Adam (best known for his starring roles on Disney TV’s Zeke and Luther, which ran from 2009-2012 and the Hulu series Freakish) was arrested with a woman named Danni Tamburo (twenty-three), whom police allege was the getaway driver. Both were arrested at Adam’s residence later than same day.
The DA’s Office charged Adam with multiple counts of Second-Degree Robbery (California Penal Code section 212.5(c)) with multiple special allegations of Personal Use of a Firearm During a Felony (California Penal Code section 12022.5).
As a result, Adam, who has remained incarcerated since his arrest awaiting trial, was facing a maximum of 33 years in prison if convicted of all counts, including all the enhancements.
As this is an ongoing case, we cannot divulge any other information at this time.
24-Year-Old Charged with Three Armed Robberies – All Third Strikes; Facing Life in Prison
People v. J.B. (downtown C.C.B. courthouse -- Charged 05/2020, Ongoing)
On May 29, 2020, our client, then-24-year-old J.B., was arrested and charged with Second-Degree Robbery under California Penal Code section 211, a conviction which could result in a maximum five-year prison sentence excluding enhancements, including for allegedly pulling a knife on the victim. See Personal Use of a Dangerous Weapon During the Commission of a Felony (California Penal Code section 12022).
But with two prior § 211 convictions, both Strikes, he was now facing a Third Strike (California Penal Code section 667(e)(2)) and, therefore, possible life in prison, with a minimum of 25 years.
Unfortunately, after he hired us, J.D. picked up two more Armed Robbery cases and, therefore, was now facing two more Strikes.
This case is ongoing so we cannot reveal any more info at this point.
Client Charged with Estes Robbery; Facing Almost a Decade in Prison; Diversion Only, Zero Jail
People v. V.J. (downtown C.C.B. courthouse – 01/2020):
LADALF’s client “Vinny” was arrested for stealing a 6 pack of beer from a downtown liquor store. Ordinarily, the charge would be merely misdemeanor Shoplifting (California Penal Code section 459.5) or Petty Theft (California Penal Code section 486); (California Penal Code section 490.2).
Unfortunately, however, when the store’s employee tried to stop him, Vinny allegedly threatened him with a large piece of glass. He was therefore charged with an “Estes Robbery” (California Penal Code section 211).
Because he used a deadly weapon (in the eyes of the court), he was also being charged with a Strike. All told, he was looking at more than 9 years in a state penitentiary – a harsh reality for a man who was barely 20 at the time of the arrest.
This sentence appeared to be almost inevitable if he was convicted because he had several felony convictions on his juvenile record, including for robbery (which, although technically sealed, would still be used against him at sentencing as per California law).
Result: LADALF’s rehab placement counselor – without a doubt, the best in the business – helped us convince the judge, along with out motion for Mental Health Diversion (California Penal Code section 1001.36), to place Vinny in a residential treatment program. Once he successfully completed that program, he would be able to have his entire case dismissed.
“Jimmy” Prosecuted for Armed Robbery, Looking at Twenty-Six Years in Maximum Security
People v. J.C. (Van Nuys Courthouse – 09/2018):
LADALF client “Jimmy” was charged with Armed Robbery/Second-Degree Robbery (California Penal Code section 212.5(c)).
Since this was his second Strike, and because he was on parole at the time, he was looking at more than two-and-a-half decades in a medium or even maximum-security penal institution. (The previous Strike was a conviction for the same crime.)
The client’s previous attorney was useless and wanted to plead him out to almost a decade in prison plus a Second Strike, which not only meant that he would have to serve at least 85% of that sentence (even with good time), but if he was ever convicted of a Third Strike (California Penal Code section 667(e)(2)), he would be hit with a 25-to-life stretch.
Fortunately, Jimmy fired his attorney and hired us. After reviewing all the evidence, which was riddled with reasonable doubt, not to mention the glaring contradictions in the so-called victim’s preliminary hearing testimony, we met with the prosecutor to show her that if she forced us to go trial, she would likely lose. We then announced to the judge that we were ready to proceed to trial.
Result: We were able to get Jimmy a drastically reduced plea to Receiving Stolen Property (California Penal Code section 496(a)), which resulted in zero incarceration and zero probation. He thereby avoided a Second Strike Offense (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b); California Penal Code section 667.5(c) (“Violent Felonies”); California Penal Code section 1192.7 (“Serious Felonies”).
“Lawrence” Charged with Armed Robbery of a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, 25 Years’ Max
People v. L.W. (Compton courthouse -- Charged 01/2020, Ongoing):
Following his arrest for Armed Robbery/Second-Degree Robbery of a medical marijuana dispensary, our client “Lawrence” was arraigned on January 22, 2020 and charged with the following offenses:
Robbery under (California Penal Code section 211)
Gang Enhancement (California Penal Code section 186.22)
Personal Discharging of a Firearm During the Commission of a Serious Felony (California Penal Code section 12022.53(c))
Personal Use of a Firearm During a Felony (California Penal Code section 12022.5)
As a result, if convicted of all of the foregoing, and if the sentences were not ordered to run concurrently, he was facing a maximum of 25 years in state prison.
This is a current case so that’s all we can reveal at this point.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
The LADALF has been representing clients with great success against all kinds of robbery charges for almost 16.5 years. Our founder Ninaz Saffari, for example, is currently defending four clients against Armed Robbery cases alone. As these convictions typically result in very long prison sentences (always Strike offenses), she fights against these types of prosecutions with particular vigor.