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Degrees of Robbery in California

July 3, 2019

Degrees of Robbery in California

In our everyday lives, we may use legal terminology to describe something that happened, like saying that a person got robbed, without necessarily knowing if that is the accurate term.  In most cases, the common understanding of the word is fine: most people know what you mean when you say it.  But in the legal system, these terms have very specific definitions.  Learning what they mean can be useful if you or a loved one come into contact with the California criminal justice system.

Take robbery, for example.  Many of us use the term to describe any type of theft.  But under California law, robbery requires proof of five separate elements:

  1. The accused took property that was not his or her own;
  2. The property was in the possession of another person;
  3. The property was taken from the other person's immediate presence;
  4. The property was taken against that person's will;
  5. The accused used force or fear to take the property, or to prevent the person from resisting;
  6. When the accused used force or fear he or she intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Based on this definition of robbery, most of what the average Californian would describe as being robbed does not qualify as a robbery under the law.

According to a criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA, if a person’s house is broken into while they are not home, that is not robbery — it’s burglary (although a lot of people would say that their house was robbed!).  By contrast, if a person was mugged, that crime would likely be charged as a robbery.

In California, there are two degrees of robbery.  First-degree robbery is committed when the victim is the driver or passenger of a far-earning vehicle (such as a taxi); is robbed when located in a residence, inhabited vessel, trailer coach, or building; or using or just used an ATM machine. All other types of robberies are classified as second-degree robbery.  The main difference between the two degrees of robbery is where the person was when they were robbed, and whether the robber had accomplices.

As a criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA can explain, first-degree robbery is punishable by between three and six years in California state prison.  However, if two or more people work together to commit first-degree robbery, the punishment increases to between three and nine years.  Second-degree robbery is punishable by incarceration in state prison for between two and five years.

There are a number of potential defenses to a robbery charge.  If a person was taking back their own property, then the first element of the robbery charge must fail, as he or she was taking their own property.  Alternatively, there may be insufficient evidence to prove the charge, or the witness might have identified the wrong person as the perpetrator.  In some cases, the police may have violated the rights of the defendant, such as by failing to read the Miranda warnings or by seizing property without a warrant.  An experienced attorney may be able to have the charges reduced or even dismissed on this basis.

If you have been charged with robbery or another California crime, the Chambers Law Firm can help.  We offer free initial consultations, where we will explain your rights and options.  Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule an appointment with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA.

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