Defending Against Robbery Charges in the State of California

Robbery and Burglary are commonly confused crimes in the state of California and elsewhere.  Both crimes are prosecuted aggressively and subject to serious penalties including jail time. If you have been charged with robbery, it is essential that you contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In the face of jail time and other penalties, you need a professional to mount the strongest possible defense on your behalf and challenge the state’s efforts to prove each element of the crime of robbery beyond a reasonable doubt. The purpose of this article is to explain the difference between robbery and burglary, and why it is so important to be represented by an attorney when charged with either crime in the state of California.

The Force or Fear Requirement

Most people know that both burglary and robbery have something to do with stealing, but are not quite sure about the specifics of each criminal charge. In the most general sense, it is the requirement of force or fear that distinguishes the crime of robbery from the crime of burglary.  The law that codifies this distinction in the state of California is Penal Code 211. Penal Code 211 defines robbery as the taking of personal property that is in the possession of another person, from the victim’s person or immediate presence, against the victim’s will, and through the use of either force of fear. As is the case with every legal definition, every word matters.

As you might imagine, the term “personal property” includes a vast array of items. Among the most common are cash, jewelry, electronic devices, and other valuable goods. The term “another person” is as simple as it sounds – it is just someone other than the robber.  The language “from the victim’s person” refers to the victim’s body or clothing. Similarly, the “immediate presence” of the victim refers to the area very close to the victim. “Against the victim’s will” means that the victim did not give the personal property in question in a voluntary manner. Rather, as the last element – “through force of fear” – indicates, the personal property was surrendered in response to the use of force or fear. Force includes a variety of physical actions, such as grabbing and shoving. Fear may be instilled via threats of violence or the brandishing of a weapon, such as a knife or gun.

Burglary lacks the requirement of use of force or fear. It simply includes the entering of a room, structure, or locked vehicle with the intent to commit a felony therein. As you might imagine, a robbery conviction is punished more severely precisely because of the use of force of fear. This element is what makes robbery a more serious crime, in some ways, than burglary. Accordingly, a first-degree robbery charge in the state of California may be punished by up to nine years in prison. If you have been charged with robbery in California, contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney immediately.