According to the LA Times, robberies in the LA area increased by 12.3 percent in 2015. In particular, in more affluent areas in the city, residents have increasingly complained of home thefts and car break-ins. Additionally, packages have been taken from resident’s doorsteps, and smartphones have literally been lifted right out of the hands or pockets of the owners. When broken down, automobile thefts increase by 16.7 percent, items taken from vehicles increased 15.1 percent, personal theft increased by 6.3 percent, and home robberies increased by 4.8 percent.
What Constitutes Robbery?
Robbery (California Penal Code § 211) is a crime which uses force or intimidation to take property from another person’s immediate presence. In order to prove robbery charges, the prosecutor must establish that force or intimidation was used to cause fear in the person whose possessions were taken. (At least some degree of force is necessary in the state of California to distinguish robbery charges from larceny charges). When the crime was committed, the victim must have feared injury for the crime to be classified as robbery rather than larceny, and the property must have been taken in the immediate presence of the victim.
Finally, you must have attempted to escape with the stolen property. For the crime to be classified as a first-degree robbery, it must have occurred in a home, an inhabited part of a building or vessel or a dwelling which is inhabited, or the victim must have been on the job as a taxi driver or transit operator, or the victim must have been using an ATM machine or have been in the immediate vicinity of an ATM machine. When none of the elements of a first-degree robbery are present, then the crime will be classified as a second-degree robbery.
What is Estes Robbery?
In California, petty theft that is coupled with the use of force will often get filed as robbery. This is known as “Estes” robbery after the case of Curtis Dale Estes versus Sears, Roebuck & Company. The way this most commonly occurs is when a petty shoplifter runs out of a store and into a security guard. In fear, the shoplifter may push past the guard – thereby increasing the criminal charge from theft to more serious felony robbery.
Penalties for a Los Angeles Estes Robbery Conviction
Estes robbery is charged under California Penal Code, Section 211, and is a very serious crime. Typically, Estes robbery is charged as a second-degree robbery. If you are convicted of second-degree robbery, you could face:
- A 2, 3 or 5-year sentence in a California state prison;
- Probation for 3-5 years;
- An order of community service;
- An order of a work-release program, and
- Victim restitution payment.
Estes robbery is also considered a “strike” under California’s three strikes law. This means that you must complete at least 85% of your sentence before you will be eligible for parole.
Enhancements to Robbery Charges in Los Angeles
There are certain enhanced penalties you may face if convicted of a California robbery offense. Some of these enhancements include:
- If you caused significant injury to another person during the commission of the robbery, you will likely face additional time in prison, from 3 to 6 years;
- If you used a firearm during the commission of the robbery, you could face an additional (consecutive) 10 years in a California state prison.
- If you discharged a firearm during the commission of the robbery you could face an additional (consecutive) 20 years in a California state prison;
- If you discharged a firearm during the commission of the robbery, and as a result, great bodily injury or death resulted, you could face an additional (consecutive) 25 years to life in a California state prison.
As one of several violent crimes, if convicted of robbery, you will receive a “strike” on your criminal record. A second felony strike offense conviction in the state of California will result in the punishments you receive being doubled in accordance with the Three Strikes Law. A third strike will result in a mandatory minimum 25 years to life in prison.
Potential Defenses to the Crime of Robbery
While your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney will choose your defense based on the circumstances surrounding the offense, there are some defenses which are commonly used in the defense of robbery, including:
- You are innocent of the crime, i.e., you were falsely accused or were a victim of mistaken identity;
- You believed you had a right to the property in question, or
- You didn’t use fear or force to take the property.
Because robbery is a serious crime with serious penalties, you should speak to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will determine the best way to proceed with your defense, and will ensure your rights are fully protected from start to finish.