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PC 211 Robbery

To make sure that Californians are treated fairly in the criminal justice system, they must understand the penal code and how it relates to any crime they may be accused of committing. Penal Code 211 outlines the law regarding robbery, or theft using force, in the state of California.

If you or a loved one is facing second- or first-degree robbery charges, it’s important to inform yourself about PC 211 and the associated penalties so that you can build a strong California defense for your case. An experienced California criminal defense and robbery lawyer can also help you with understanding PC 211 and creating a defense against any robbery charges that you may be facing.

Penal Code Section 211: An Introduction

Overall, the penal code in California state is a group of laws that lay out the specifics of all the criminal offenses that occur. The California penal code was drafted with the intent of protecting the private property of Californians as well as their well-being and safety.

PC 211 itself was passed into law as early as 1872 during the early history of the legal system in California. Since its introduction, PC 211 has changed and adapted with the cultural and societal norms of Californians. PC 211 addresses the definitions for robbery in the state.

Using PC 211 to Define Robbery

Penal Code 211 considers robbery to be the forceful taking of the property of an individual from their person or while they are present in the situation. Robbery is always committed against the will of the victims, and it must involve either using force or instilling fear in the accused to properly be considered robbery. Therefore, the California penal code considers a case to be robbery if the following criteria are met:

  • The victim was present.
  • The victim had property taken directly from their person.
  • Fear or force was used by the accused to take the property. 

If private property was taken, but the above criteria are not met, then these crimes would be considered theft or burglary. Theft includes the taking of someone else’s private property against their will, and burglary involves breaking and entering a space, such as a house or a car, to take someone’s private property.

Further Expansion on the Criteria of a Robbery Case

Understanding whether a case is classified as theft, burglary, or robbery can be difficult, as the criteria of all these criminal charges can overlap. To better understand how robbery is defined under PC 211, there are further criteria to consider:

  • The involvement of personal property. A person’s private property, such as their passport, telephone, wallet, jewelry, clothes, personal documents, or other items must have been taken for the case to be a burglary case. 
  • Felonious taking was established. For the taking of private robbery to be considered robbery, it must have been seized with criminal intent, and therefore the act itself is of a criminal nature.
  • The property was taken against the will of the victim. If the victim gave their consent to transfer their belongings to the accused, without the accused using fear or force, then this cannot be considered robbery. 
  • The property was taken directly from the person, or they were present. It’s important to specify that the property needs to have been taken from the person who was the victim of the crime, or the victim needs to have been present when the property was seized for it to be considered an act of robbery. 
  • Fear or force must have been used in the taking of the property. During the taking of the private property, the accused must have instilled fear or force in the victim. Examples of using fear include shouting, threatening, or having a weapon, such as a knife or a gun. Using force means the use of physical means, such as forcibly moving someone to a place of captivity or overpowering the individual to deprive them of their property. 

If you are unsure whether your case should be classified as robbery, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help you break down the details of your case and understand the specifics of your robbery charges.

What Are the Penalties for Robbery Under Penal Code 211?

PC 211 defines the specific qualities of a robbery case, but it does not discuss the penalties associated with the crime. In California, PC 213 is the section of the penal code that details the penalties for robbery cases.

It’s important to note that the potential penalties associated with your robbery case can vary, depending on the severity of the crime, whether certain factors were present or not, and whether you have been charged for crimes before.

Robbery in California is divided into two different strata: first-degree and second-degree robbery. To properly understand the penalties that you might be facing, it’s critical to know the degree of your charge.

How Is First-Degree Robbery Defined in California?

First-degree robbery charges are more serious than second-degree charges. Robbery in the first degree must include one of the following criteria:

  • The victim was robbed close to an ATM or had just finished using the ATM. 
  • The victim was robbed in a home or a place that was inhabited.
  • The victim was a driver or a passenger on a metro, taxi, bus, street car, or other means of transportation. 

It’s important to remember that first-degree robbery charges are more serious than second-degree robbery charges. Nevertheless, they are both considered to be felonies.

What Are the Penalties for First-Degree Robbery in California?

The penalties associated with a first-degree robbery case can vary depending on the accused’s criminal record, whether there were aggravating factors present, and other factors. The following should be considered as the potential penalties for a first-degree robbery conviction:

  • There will likely be a prison term. In California, if the crime is considered to be first-degree robbery, the individual who is facing charges will potentially serve a minimum of 3 years to a maximum of 9 years in state prison. 
  • A felony will be on their criminal record. Because all robbery charges are considered to be a felony, this can have serious implications for the accused’s criminal record. Having a felony on a criminal record can impact someone’s ability to secure housing, education, and job opportunities.
  • First-degree robbery is a California strike offense. In California, the Three Strikes Law states that offenders with 3 existing serious offenses will receive harsher penalties for the same offense. This means that it is more difficult to get a sentence other than imprisonment, and the consequences can be life in prison.
  • Probation may be an alternative sentence. In some cases, the accused may be able to get probation for their sentencing instead of having to serve time in prison. The convicted individual will have to follow certain rules that are dictated in the terms of their probation. These rules and conditions can include frequently meeting with a probation officer, keeping a regular job, and not falling back into criminal patterns. If these terms are violated, the convinced individual may be sent to prison. 
  • Restitution may need to be paid. If the victim suffered economic loss as a result of the robbery, then they will need to be paid back. As a part of the sentencing, the convicted individual will need to pay restitution. 

To understand how the details of your first-degree robbery case may impact your potential sentencing, it’s important to speak with a robbery attorney who has had experience with similar California court cases to yours.

How Is Second-Degree Robbery Defined in California?

Second-degree robbery in California is robbery that does not include any of the conditions stated above that define first-degree robbery. To distinguish first-degree robbery from second-degree robbery, it is important to consider who the victim was and where the location of the robbery was.

What Are the Penalties for Second-Degree Robbery in California?

Second-degree robbery in California is considered to be a felony, but the sentencing structure is not as severe as it is for first-degree robbery cases. When examining the potential sentencing for a second-degree robbery case, it is important to keep the following factors in mind:

  • There are sentencing guidelines for prison terms. For second-degree felonies, a convicted individual can spend a minimum of 2 years in prison and a maximum of 5 years in state prison. If they meet certain conditions during their time in prison, they may have the potential to be switched to parole.
  • A felony will be on the convicted individual’s criminal record. A second-degree robbery offense is considered to be a felony offense, since both first- and second-degree robbery are felonies. This can impact the ability of a person to lead a meaningful life in society after their sentencing is over.
  • Second-degree robbery is a California strike offense. Like first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery is also a strike offense, which will be considered one of the three strikes under the California Three Strikes Law. This means that sentencing can be much more severe if there are repeat offenses, and alternative sentencing to imprisonment will be practically unavoidable. 
  • Restitution may be a requirement of the sentencing. Like first-degree robbery sentencing, if the second-degree robbery case resulted in the victim taking economic losses, then the convicted individual will need to provide them with financial compensation in the form of restitution.
  • Probation may be an option. Depending on the specific nature of the second-degree robbery crime, the accused may be able to argue a case to serve probation time instead of imprisonment. It’s important that they adhere closely to the rules and conditions of probation to avoid time in prison. 

Because the specific penalties for each second-degree robbery case will vary based on issues such as criminal history, whether there were aggravating factors, and other considerations, it’s important to work with a compassionate California robbery lawyer. They can help you understand the nuances of your case and the implications that they might have for your associated charges.

What Is the Maximum Sentence for PC 211?

While robbery is always considered to be a felony offense under California Penal Code 211, the sentencing can vary for first- and second-degree robbery cases. Factors that can influence the outcome of sentencing for a case include the criminal background of the defendant and the seriousness of the crime committed.

The maximum sentence varies for first-degree robbery and second-degree robbery. For first-degree robbery, the maximum prison sentence allowed is 9 years. For second-degree robbery, the maximum prison sentence allowed is 5 years.

These prison sentences are considered to be the California legal standard for these charges, but there are extenuating circumstances in which the maximum sentencing can be greater. For example, if this felony is the convicted individual’s third felony offense within a certain period of time, under the Three Strikes Law, they can be sentenced to up to life in prison.

A criminal defense lawyer can help you develop strategies to try to get your charges dropped or your prison sentence minimized. The judge will ultimately decide on the punishment associated with your case based on the harm that was done to the victim, the details of your case, evidence from the hearing, and other factors. Therefore, it’s important to work with a lawyer who is deeply familiar with the California court system and the associated actors involved.

Aggravating Factors That Can Enhance Penalties for California Robbery Charges

There are multiple aggravating circumstances that can impact the outcome of a case and increase the minimum sentencing requirements for a robbery case. It’s important to be aware of these aggravating instances to help determine what your potential sentencing might be. The main aggravating factors for a California robbery are:

  • Use of a gun or firearm. If the accused used a firearm or gun in any way during a robbery event, then their baseline sentence can be increased. 
  • Location of the robbery. If the robbery took place in the home or dwelling of the victim or someone else, or if it took place in a school, the sentencing may be greater. 
  • Physical harm done to the victim. If the victim faced serious injuries as a result of the robbery, then the accused could have to spend a longer period of time in prison. 
  • Presence of accomplices. If the accused committed the crime in an organized manner with one or more other people, then their base sentencing may go up. 

A California robbery attorney who has dealt with different robbery cases can help you understand how the aggravating details associated with your case might increase your sentencing. In addition to helping you understand your potential sentencing, an experienced lawyer can help build a strong defense case as they work to minimize your sentencing outcome.

Cases of Robbery Where Multiple Victims Are Involved

A robbery case is not defined by the value or amount of property that was stolen from the victim. Instead, it is defined by the number of victims who were present. If three people were located at the scene where the robbery occurred, the accused can be charged with three counts of robbery, even if they only took property, such as a watch, from one of the victims. On the other hand, if only one victim was present, but multiple items were stolen, such as a watch, a necklace, and a wallet, then this can only be counted as one charge of robbery for the accused.

Cases of Robbery Where the Victim or Victims Are Severely Injured by the Accused

California Penal Code 12022.7 specifies the additional sentencing that is to be imposed on individuals who have been accused of committing serious bodily harm to a victim or victims in a robbery incident.

If the victim involved suffered serious physical harm, then the great bodily injury enhancement for California sentences may be applied, which, based on the identity of the victim and the amount of harm done, can result in additional sentencing of anywhere from three to six years, on top of the existing robbery sentence.

If the victim of the physical harm during the robbery suffered grave brain injury that lead them to become comatose, or if they had any kind of paralysis due to a nervous system injury, such as an inability to engage in proper motor functioning, then this will add an extra five years to the robbery sentence for the accused.

The age of the victim involved in the case can also increase the sentencing for individuals accused of committing robbery crimes. If the individual who suffered the great bodily injury was older than 69, then five years will be added on top of the robbery sentence. If the individual who suffered the severe bodily injury was under 5, then there will be an added consecutive prison sentence of four to six years.

If the case of robbery involved an instance of domestic violence, then this can also increase the sentencing for the accused. If a domestic violence situation was involved in the robbery, then this can add three to five years of consecutive time in prison to the baseline sentence associated with the robbery crime.

Cases of Robbery Where Firearms Are Involved

In California, Penal Code 12022.53, otherwise referred to as the “10-20-life use a gun and you’re done” law, enhances the sentencing for felonies committed that involve the presence or use of firearms, including robbery crimes.

If the accused used a firearm personally during the robbery, such as brandishing it or actively using it as a threat of force, they will have ten years added to their baseline robbery sentence. It’s important to know that the firearm does not have to be loaded or ready to fire in this case.

If the accused individual fired their weapon during the robbery with intention, they will have an additional 20 years in state prison added to their baseline robbery sentence. If the accused fired the weapon and caused injury to the victim, they can face an additional sentence in state prison ranging from 25 years to life.

Cases of Robbery Where the Defendant Has Been Convicted of Previous “Violent Felony” Crimes

The California “Three Strikes Law” is a law that can enhance the sentencing of a robbery crime if the defendant has committed previous felonies that were considered to be “violent felonies.” Under Penal Code 211, robbery is classified as a “violent felony,” and therefore counts as one of the strikes in the California “Three Strikes Law”.

Therefore, when the accused already has a violent felony on their record, they can face two times the regular sentence associated with a robbery crime. For example, if they are accused of committing first-degree robbery, then they can face a maximum prison sentence of 18 years, instead of 9 years.

If the accused has already been convicted of 2 or more violent felonies, then the enhanced sentence that they will face is even more severe. In this case, the minimum sentence that they can receive is 25 years, and they can face up to a lifetime in prison.

What Is the Penal Code 664-211?

Section 664/211 of the California penal code addresses attempted robbery. Section 211 defines robbery and the details associated with such a crime. Section 664, on the other hand, specifies what an attempted crime is. Therefore, when Section 211 and Section 644 are referenced in tandem, they can be used to define attempted robbery.

Section 664 details that a person who tries to attempt a crime, but is not able to do so because of failure or prevention by another person or event, can face half of the sentencing of the crime that they were trying to commit. For example, if the accused was trying to commit second-degree burglary, then instead of facing the normal maximum sentence of five years, they could face up to 2.5 years in state prison.

Attempted robbery should not be confused with conspiracy, or planning to commit robbery. For an individual to be charged with attempted robbery, they need to have gone through specific and substantial motions toward committing the robbery.

The prosecuting parties will need to provide evidence that the defendant had specific intentions to rob someone and that they had already taken some action toward committing the crime. For example, if the defendant has been accused of attempted robbery, they might have verbally indicated to the victim that they needed to hand over their property or brandished a weapon to threaten them.

Is Penal Code 211 a Wobbler?

The word “wobbler” refers to crimes that can be considered a misdemeanor or felony based on certain circumstances associated with the crime that was committed, such as whether a firearm was used, and the criminal history of the accused. A crime that is classified as a misdemeanor is considered to be less serious, as it has less long-term implications and restrictions on personal freedoms. It is also associated with less severe sentencing.

Penal Code 211 in California, which outlines the definition of robbery, is not a “wobbler” law, as it clearly states that all robbery charges are felony charges. It’s important to note that the degree of the associated felony charges does not affect whether it is classified as a felony. Both first- and second-degree robbery are considered to be felony offenses.

Offenses That Are Related to California’s PC 211

There are other offenses that are loosely related to robbery and therefore can be charged in tandem with robbery crimes. They might also potentially be used instead of robbery charges, as in a plea deal or some other arrangement that your attorney may be able to make. An experienced criminal defense attorney should be well aware of the crimes in California that overlap with robbery and how this can potentially affect sentencing penalties for their client.


Theft is considered the taking of someone’s personal property without their consent but without using force or fear. The two kinds of theft are considered to be grand theft and petty theft under California law, and they are defined under Penal Code 487 and Penal Code 488.

A case of theft is classified as grand theft if the stolen property has a value of over 950 U.S. dollars or if the stolen property is a car or firearm that was taken when the victim was present. Any case that involves stolen property worth less than $950.01 U.S. dollars, and doesn’t include a firearm or car being stolen from a present victim, is considered to be a petty theft case.

In terms of penalties, grand theft can be categorized as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the prosecutor considers the case of grand theft to be a felony, this means that the sentencing can range from 16 months to up to three years in prison. Since petty theft is a misdemeanor, the maximum amount of jail time that the accused can face is 6 months.

Since the maximum sentence for grand theft is three years, in comparison to a potential nine years in state prison for robbery, many individuals who have been charged with robbery will try to get their case reclassified as grand theft.


Section 2017 of the California penal code defines kidnapping as employing the use of force or fear to physically move a person a large distance without their consent. An individual who is accused of kidnapping can face three to eight years of time in prison.

If the accused had to move the victim a substantial distance to carry out a robbery, they can be charged with both robbery and kidnapping. An example of this could be if an individual relocates a person to a more private space so as to forcibly take their belongings.

In the state of California, it is very serious to be charged with kidnapping as a means of committing robbery. A person accused of this can potentially face life in state prison for committing kidnapping and robbery together, with the potential to get parole.


California Penal Code Section 518 defines extortion as using force or threatening someone to get them to give up personal property, money, or consideration. Consideration can be anything with value, such as a sexual act, or a picture of a sexual nature. During a case of extortion, unlike robbery, the individual is compelled by someone else to give their consent to give over the property or money.

While a robbery case requires the use of force or fear to take a victim’s property, this is different for extortion. In an extortion case, someone can be coerced into handing over their money or property due to threats to their well-being and their property, among others. These threats can include telling a secret, accusing the person of a crime, and exposing their immigration status.

Extortion, which is classified as a felony, can come with penalties of up to 4 years in jail. Since the maximum sentencing is less than that of first- and even second-degree burglary, many accused of robbery will try to get their case reclassified as extortion if they can.


Carjacking is defined under the California Penal Code as taking the automobile of a person who is present. Similar to robbery, carjacking cases must include the use of fear or force by the accused. Carjacking is also similar to robbery in that property is taken without consent, but in the case of carjacking, the property taken is always a car.

While a person can face carjacking and robbery charges at the same time, they can only be convicted for one of the two. The sentencing for carjacking can range from three to nine years of imprisonment.


Burglary is defined by California Penal Code Section 459 as the breaking and entering of an enclosed or locked space, such as a car or building, with the intention of committing a felony inside there.

There are many cases where a person is accused of committing robbery and burglary at the same time, as many robberies occur after a space has been broken into and entered. If the burglary occurs in the home, it is considered to be a felony. If it is committed somewhere else, it can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The sentencing for a felony burglary case can range from two to six years in state prison.

Defense Against PC 211 Charges

The specific legal strategy that will be most effective for optimizing the outcome of a case will be dependent on the details of the case, such as the severity of the charges, the available evidence and the defendant’s criminal history. When your attorney is preparing their case to defend you against robbery charges, there is a wide range of tactics that they can use, such as:

  • Showing that there was a lack of intent. To convict an accused person of robbery charges, it must be proven that they had intentions to take the property of a person by using force or fear. Therefore, a defense lawyer may be able to argue that there is not enough evidence to show that there was intent, or they can prove that the intent was something other than using force or fear to steal from the accuser. 
  • Proving that the defendant was mistaken for someone else. A defense attorney can show that there is not enough supporting evidence to prove that the defendant was present at the scene of the crime and committed the act. They can also prove that the defendant was mistakenly identified as someone else by witnesses or the police.
  • Showing that there was consent in the exchange of property. The attorney can show that personal property was indeed transferred with the consent of the accuser and therefore was not a robbery. 
  • Demonstrating that no force or fear was used. If an attorney can show the prosecution that there was a lack of force or fear used to take the personal property, then the case charges may be able to be downgraded to theft charges, which are much less serious. 
  • Presenting a strong alibi. An attorney can show that there is evidence to prove that the defendant was not at the scene of the crime at the alleged time of the incident. Evidence such as video or camera footage, messages, phone location information, and testimonies from witnesses can show that the defendant could not have committed the crime. 
  • Demonstrating that the police acted out of conduct. If the police obtained evidence used for prosecuting the robbery crime illegally, such as by stopping and searching someone without reasonable suspicion, or forcing them to make a confession, then the criminal defense attorney can try to get this evidence dismissed. 
  • Proving that this was a case of duress. In some cases, robbery and other felonies can be committed out of duress, meaning that the defendant was forced to commit the crime. An attorney can work to prove that the crime was committed under duress to get the charges dropped. 
  • Establishing that there was a good-faith belief in ownership. There are some cases where the defendant in a robbery case is genuinely misled to believe that the property they end up stealing is theirs. If an attorney can prove this, then they can get robbery charges dropped or reduced.
  • Showing that there is not enough evidence to convict the accused individual. If there is not enough evidence, such as video footage or eyewitnesses, to show that the alleged crime happened and that it was committed by the accused, then this can get the charges dropped. 

In addition to the above-mentioned legal strategies to get robbery charges dropped, the attorney can prove that there was a lack of immediate presence of the victim, or even that the accuser has certain motives to bring false accusations onto the defendant. Furthermore, if the defendant actually committed the crime, and the prosecution has a solid case to prove it, their attorney may help them plead guilty to a lesser charge. That way, they can reduce the potential penalties that they would otherwise face after being convicted for their original offense.

How a Lawyer Can Help You With PC 211 Charges

A California robbery attorney who is knowledgeable in local and state criminal law can help analyze the details of your case, and all the associated evidence, to help put together a defense strategy that suits your legal needs. They can help interview witnesses and collect evidence to support your defense. Your attorney can advocate for you in court to work toward optimizing your case outcome.

A lawyer can protect your rights by analyzing all the details of your case to ensure that no personal rights were violated and that all evidence obtained against you was acquired legally. Additionally, they can provide you with knowledge about the California Penal Code as well as how the court systems and processes operate.

When hiring a criminal defense lawyer with experience in robbery cases, it’s important to get them on your case before it’s too late. Working with a lawyer earlier on in your case gives them enough time to plan your defense. This also allows them to communicate and negotiate with associated stakeholders in your case, such as the judge.

Lastly, if you do not agree with the case outcome, then your lawyer can help advise you on whether an appeals process should be pursued. They can also advise you on the steps that you can take to ameliorate your situation during post-conviction sentencing.

Work With a California Criminal Defense and Robbery Lawyer Who Can Fight for You

Being charged with a robbery crime in California can be overwhelming and stressful. Therefore, it is crucial to work with a lawyer who can support you, and stay on top of the details of your case, so that you can focus on your own mental and physical well-being.

At Power Trial Lawyers, we have years of experience working with robbery cases similar to yours, and we are aware of how to optimize defense strategies to work toward getting cases dropped or the resulting penalties minimized. If you have been accused of robbery and are looking for legal assistance, reach out to our team today for a consultation.

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