Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

California Criminal Law: Robbery, Penal Code Section 211 vs. Theft, Penal Code Section 484 and 487

Posted on: May 14, 2008 at 12:43 p.m.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys are frequently confronted with the question of what constitutes a robbery: If the suspect steals some items from a store, and then chased by security does the conduct constitute a robbery or a petty theft?

California robbery laws are defined by the legislature in Penal Code Section 211: the crime is the taking of property from a person by using force or threats. The famous People vs. Estes decision that interpreted Penal Code Section 211 further expanded this definition, holding that a defendant who is running away (having shoplifted property from a store without force or fear) becomes a robbery suspect when he uses force or threats to dissuade security from detaining him.

The sentencing difference between a petty/grand theft and a robbery is important, as the former is typically a misdemeanor, while the latter is a felony that usually carries substantial prison time.

A recent Court of Appeals decision further discussed how a defendant

Tagged as: jury trial defense, theft, white collar crime fraud theft laws


Kris Jozwick on March 17, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. wrote:

Seriously, I wish I could produce posts half as well as you. Your articles always are so well crafted. You use outsourcing for it or write it yourself?

Sing Wong (Star) on May 27, 2008 at 2:12 a.m. wrote:

I support the court for further defining the term 'robbery,' as there are significant sentencing differences between grand theft and robbery. The law defines that 'a defendant who is running away (having shoplifted property from a store without force or fear) becomes a robbery suspect when he uses force or threats to dissuade security from detaining him.' In both robbery and grand theft, the criminals have the intention to take away property illegally from someone else. In addition, a ' grand theft' who used force or fear to a person who chase after him has the same intention to harm a person even though the harm wasn't aimed initially. It is reasonable to believe that the criminal had thought of using the force and planned before the incident. For example, in Gomez's case, Gomez shot the employee who discovered him stealing. Why would Gomez brought the gun with him? Did he think of killing someone who prevent him from stealing? All in all, the results of the taking of personal property by force or fear from a victim or from the victim

M Phung Tu on May 25, 2008 at 4:20 p.m. wrote:

I agree with Corrigan's interpretation of what constitute the presence to the victim: '[a] victim who tries to stop a thief from getting away with his property is in the presence of the property.? Although the employee did not witness Gomez gained the possession of the property at the scene; he did pursued Gomez in attempt to stop him from getting away with his property. The employee's pursuit show his presence during Gomez persistent asportation of the stolen property, thus should convict Gomez of robbery. Furthermore, Gomez resorted to violence during his runaway. This shows that he is capable and willing to commit more crimes to maintain his possession of the properties. Gomez used of violence during his asportation endangering not only the victim but the by-standers also. This is simply a cherry on top of a robbery sundae. Gomez committed two of the characteristics of robbery, thus even if the Defense tries to argue that the victim was not present at the initial possession of the property, Gomez could still be charged with robbery because he shot at his pursuer.

Sally Derohanessian on May 15, 2008 at 12:30 p.m. wrote:

Yes,Corrigan's reasoning is simple and straightforward. If the defendant has stolen property and whether or not he uses force at the scene or while trying to escape, does not change the fact that he is committing a robbery. In fact, using force to retain the stolen property during asportation seems even more serious as a crime because it shows a commitment on the part of the defendant to continue acting violenty and willingly endanger not only the life of the victim but of surrounding people as well. There is obviously an additional layer of endangerment and crime that arises as a result of the defendant's plot to steal. It is causing more damage and possibly the loss of a life in exchange for possession of material. So in the case of Gomez for example, it is not legitamite to argue that the victim was not present when he committed the act of robbery. It is the victim's right to pursue his claim to property and stop Gomez during the asportation period. Morally, the property being stolen, and because it is stolen, does not at any point become the defendant's possession, even when it has been carried away to a temporarily safe place where the victim is not able to access it. So using force to keep hold of the possession at any point of the crime, whether on the scene, during asportation, or after, should not be used as a way to distinguish whether a robbery is justifiable - robbery is robbery.

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