Robbery is one of the more serious criminal theft offenses and is a felony in California since it is a crime of violence. It is the taking of someone’s property by force or by the reasonable threat of force or intimidation. It makes no difference if the item taken has minimal value.

The crime of robbery is charged in the first or second degree depending upon where the robbery took place, the severity of the crime and if a dangerous weapon was used.

Elements of Robbery

The elements of robbery must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. These include:

  • The unlawful taking of property from another person who is in possession or constructive possession of that property. For example, the robber could lock the victim in a room and then take an item from another part of the house.
  • It must be from that person’s possession or immediate presence against the person’s will
  • The taking was accompanied by force or threats of physical violence

4. The offender carried the property away regardless of how far or for how long

The property taken must have been within the immediate presence of the victim. For example, if intimidation is used to keep the victim in one place while another person drives to another location to unlawfully take some item belonging to the victim, this does not satisfy the element of being in the person’s immediate possession.

“Taking” also requires that the item be transferred or moved to the robber by the application of force. Pick-pocketing could be larceny or some degree of theft, but it is not robbery since the victim was unaware of the taking by force.

You may not, however, render a victim unconscious either by physical force or by drugging to the victim, regardless if the victim knew he or she was being drugged, and then taking an item of value from the victim.

Robbery can also be committed by threatening a victim’s family member or anyone else who is in their presence If the alleged robber takes the item as a joke or by a mistaken impression that the item belongs to the accused, it may not satisfy the element of intent.

Degrees and Penalties

Aggravating circumstances can elevate the crime to first degree robbery. First degree robbery in California includes robbing someone in a car or any type of commercial vehicle, or in a home, or from someone who is using or just used an ATM machine.

First degree robbery carries imprisonment of 3, 4, 6 or 9 years.

Second degree robbery is for all other robbery offenses and circumstances. Offenders face from 2, 3, or 5 years in state prison.

If a weapon was used or you caused serious bodily injury on the victim, the sentence is enhanced by 3 to 6 years in addition to the prison time imposed for the robbery conviction.

A robbery is also a violent felony that qualifies as a “Strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law. If you receive 3 strikes, you face 25 years to life in prison.

Related Offenses

Some other crimes of theft share characteristics of robbery:


This is robbery of a car from someone that was in their immediate possession by the use of force or its threat. It is a separate offense.

Grand Theft Auto:

You could be charged with this offense for stealing another person’s car.


You can be convicted of burglary for entering a structure with the intent of committing a felony once there such as robbing someone. You can be convicted of both in this instance.


Threatening someone with force or inflicting bodily harm on someone is assault. You can be charged with both robbery and assault. Assault with a deadly weapon is use of a firearm or other object that can inflict serious injury.


If you force someone to move any distance against their will by use of threats or fear, it is kidnapping. Robbery may involve a kidnapping offense.

Defenses to Robbery

Defenses to robbery include the following:

  • Lack of intent to take the property
  • Lack of force or a credible threat of force
  • You had an honest belief you owned the property though you still cannot threaten or forcibly take the property
  • You were falsely accused or identified
  • The victim was unaware of the taking unless he or she was purposely rendered unconscious by the offender

Immigration Consequences

Under federal immigration law, if you are an alien or permanent resident and you commit a violent felony like robbery, you will have serious immigration consequences. You could face potential deportation and not be eligible for cancellation of removal relief.

Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis

Facing a robbery or a related offense can result in serious prison time and have long range or permanent adverse consequences on your life. If you have been charged with robbery, call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis today for a free, confidential initial consultation at (213) 687-4412.