Penal Code 211 Robbery: 5 Things You Must Know About This Law

California Penal Code Section 211

In this post I am going to show you the 5 most important things you must know about California’s robbery law, Penal Code Section 211.

In fact:

This is the same information and defenses our attorneys use when clients are charged with robbery.

Penal Code 211 PC – Robbery

California Penal Code Section 211 PC or Robbery is defined as the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.1

The intent to take the property must have been formed before or during the time he/she used force or fear.

If the defendant did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then he/she did not commit robbery.2


Sam held up a cashier at a liquor store at gun point and ordered the cashier to place all the cash into the bag he provided.

Sam can be guilty of a robbery because he forced the cashier, by threatening him with a gun, to give him the money.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Robbery?

To prove someone is guilty of robbery under Penal Code 211 PC, the prosecution must prove:

  • The defendant took3; property4 that was not his/her own;
  • The property was taken from another person’s possession5 and immediate presence6;
  • The property was taken against that person’s will7
  • The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting;


  • When the defendant used force or fear8 to take the property, he/she intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession.  It was removed from possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property. 9
Force or Fear
An Example of Using Force or Fear

On the day of the robbery, he Barry went down to the bank, put a gun to a employees head and threatened to shoot the employees brains out if she failed to give him all the money.

Barry is guilty of the robbery because he used the gun as a force and fear to scare the teller into believing that he will actually shoot her if she did not turn over the money.

How Far Does Property Need To Be Moved To Be Considered A Robbery?

For a robbery to take place, there had to have been a “felonious taking.”  To constitute a “taking,” the property need only be moved a small distance10.

It does not have to be under the robber’s actual physical control.  If a person acting under the robber’s direction, including the victim, moves the property, the element of taking is satisfied.

Legal Defenses For PC 211

There are various defenses that can be asserted on your behalf to fight a California robbery charge under PC 211.

Here are the most common ones:

CanI Be Convicted Of Robbery If I Truly Believe its My Property?

If a person honestly believes that he or she has a right to the property even if that belief is mistaken or unreasonable, such belief is a defense to robbery11.

This defense is only available for robberies when a specific piece of property is reclaimed; it is not a defense to robberies perpetrated to settle a debt, liquidated or unliquidated.12.

Example Of Claim of Right:

A man honestly believed that the bicycle parked in his neighbor’s backyard belonged to him.  Trying to reclaim what he thought was rightfully his, the man climbed the fence and went onto the neighbor’s property.

When the man’s neighbor spotted him, he came out and told the man that the bicycle was a gift from his grandfather.

Not believing the neighbor, the man took the bicycle and told the neighbor that if he tries to take the bicycle, he will be forced to hurt him.

In this case, because the man honestly believed that he was reclaiming his own property, he will not be guilty of robbery.

You Did not Intend to Take the Property

If the defendant did not intend to take or keep the property, but only did so as a result of using force or fear for another purpose, the defendant will not be guilty of robbery.


While a man was defending himself in a fist fight that resulted at a bar, he grabbed the first aggressor’s knife out of his front pocket and ran away with it so the other man will not stab him.

Even though the man took the aggressor’s knife, he only did so to defend himself from serious physical injury.  Therefore, he will not be guilty of robbery.

The Incident did not Contain Force or Fear

If the defendant does not use force or fear to take away the property from another person, the defendant cannot be charged with this offense.

The force required for robbery must be more than the incidental touching necessary to take the property.


The force employed by a pickpocket is insufficient.

Whereas administering an intoxicating substance or poison to the victim to take property constitutes force13.

Falsely Accused/Mistaken Identity

If you were falsely accused of committing a robbery, you need a good attorney who can find any inconsistencies in the evidence to show that you were not the perpetrator of the crime.

What Are The Penalties For Penal Code 211 PC

The penalties for penal code 211 depend on whether the defendant is charged with first degree or second degree robbery14.

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Is Robbery A Felony In California?

Robbery under penal code 211 is a felony in California.

What Is First Degree Robbery?

First degree robbery is a robbery that took place in any of the following locations:

  • In an inhabited dwelling, vessel, floating home, trailer coach, or part of a building.  Or
  • the robbery was committed while the person robbed was using or had just used an ATM machine and was still near the machine.

Penalty For First Degree Robbery:

If the robbery is commited inside an inhabited dwelling with two or, more individuals then the state prison sentenencing guidelines change to 3, 6 or 9 years in the state prison16.

Second Degree Robbery

What Is Second Degree Robbery?

All the other types of robberies that are not classified as first degree robberies are classified as second degree robberies17.

What Is The Penalty For Second Degree Robbery?

  • Fine of up to $10,00018
  • Felony probation
  • 2, 3 or 5 years in state prison19

The 2, 3 or 5 years is low, mid or high term and is determined by the facts of the case.

Sentencing Enhancements For Robbery

1. If a great bodily injury occured during the course of the robbery then an additional 3-6 of prison time can be added to the sentence.

2. If a gun was used during the commision of a robbery than the following additional penalties apply:

  • Ten years for using a firearm in a robbery
  • Twenty years for firing a firearm during the course of a robbery
  • Twenty-five years to life if great bodily injury or death occured during hter course of the robbery and you used a firearm20.

3. Robbery is considered a strike so that if you have two previous strikes on your record than you can be sentenced to twenty-five years to life21.


According to the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Reports on Robbery in the U.S.

FBI Statistics on Robbery
  • 2.1% of robberies happen at banks.
  • 2.3% of robberies occur at gas stations.
  • 17.3% of robberies happen in a  residence.
  • 5.2% of robberies take place at convenience stores.
  • 43.2% of robberies take place on streets and highways.
  • 13.2% of robberies occur at commercial housing complexes (apartments/condos).
  • Approximately 16.6% of robberies transpire in locations other than those listed above!

Image Credit To FBI

Offenses Related To PC 211

Attempted Robbery:

Even if your conduct did not amount to a completed robbery, you could still be charged with attempted robbery if you had specific intent to rob another person22.

Grand Theft:

Grand Theft under Pen. Code §484 involves the taking away of another person’s personal property23.

Grand Theft Automobile:

Grand Theft Automobile under Pen. Code, § 487(d) involves the taking away of another person’s automobile24.

California Laws for Petty Theft under Pen. Code, sections 484, 488 involve the taking away of the property of another valued less than $25025.

Petty Theft With Prior:

Petty Theft With Prior under Penal Code 666 involves a situation where a defendant is a repeat offender who has been convicted three or more times of petty theft, among other theft crimes26.

Next Steps

A conviction for PC 211, robbery can result in very extreme consequences such as prison time and a strike within the meaning of the three strikes law.

If you have previously been convicted of a violent felony and have a strike against you, a second strike could double your sentence.

Don’t let that happen, contact our office for a free confidential consultation to discuss your case at (818) 351-9555.

Get Legal Help Now

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. California Penal Code 211 PC: []
  2. California Penal Code Section 211 PC – Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear., available at []
  3. A person takes something when he or she gains possession of it and moves it some distance.  The distance moved may be short., CALCRIM 1600 []
  4. The property taken can be of any value, however slight.  Two or more people may possess something at the same time., CALCRIM 1600 []
  5. A person does not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it.  It is enough if the person has control over it or the right to control it, either personally or through another person.  Possession Defined.  People v. Bekele (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1457, 1461 [39 Cal.Rptr.2d 797], disapproved on other grounds in People v. Rodriguez (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1, 13–14 [82 Cal.Rptr.2d 413, 971 P.2d 618]. []
  6. Property is within a person’s “immediate presence” if it is sufficiently within his or her physical control that he or she could keep possession of it if not prevented by force or fear.  Immediate Presence Defined. People v. Hayes (1990) 52 Cal.3d 577, 626–627 [276 Cal.Rptr. 874, 802 P.2d 376] []
  7. An act is done against a person’s will if that person does not consent to the act.  In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act., CALCRIM 1600 []
  8. “Fear,” as used here, means fear of injury to the person himself or herself, or injury to the person’s family or property, or immediate injury to someone else present during the incident or to that person’s property.  Fear Defined. Pen. Code, § ; see People v. Cuevas (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 689, 698 [107 Cal.Rptr.2d 529] [victim must actually be afraid]. []
  9. The defendant’s intent to take the property must have been formed before or during the time he/she used force or fear.  If the defendant did not form this required intent until after using the force or fear, then he/she did not commit robbery.  Intent.  People v. Green (1980) 27 Cal.3d 1, 52–53 [164 Cal.Rptr. 1, 609 P.2d 468], overruled on other grounds in People v. Hall (1986) 41 Cal.3d 826, 834, fn. 3 [226 Cal.Rptr. 112, 718 P.2d 99]; see Rodriguez v. Superior Court (1984) 159 Cal.App.3d 821, 826 [205 Cal.Rptr. 750] [same intent as theft].  Intent to Deprive Owner of Main Value.  See People v. Avery (2002) 27 Cal.4th 49, 57–58 [115 Cal.Rptr.2d 403, 38 P.3d 1] [in context of theft]; People v. Zangari (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 1436, 1447 [108 Cal.Rptr.2d 250] [same]. []
  10. People v. Martinez (1969) 274 Cal.App.2d 170, 174 [79 Cal.Rptr. 18]; People v. Price (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 576, 578 [102 Cal.Rptr. 71]. []
  11. People v. Butler (1967) 65 Cal.2d 569, 573 [55 Cal.Rptr. 511, 421 P.2d 703]; People v. Romo (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 514, 518 [269 Cal.Rptr. 440] [discussing defense in context of theft]; see CALCRIM No. 1863, Defense to Theft or Robbery: Claim of Right. []
  12. People v. Tufunga (1999) 21 Cal.4th 935, 945–950 [90 Cal.Rptr.2d 143, 987 P.2d 168]. []
  13. People v. Garcia (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1246 [53 Cal.Rptr.2d 256]; (People v. Dreas (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 623, 628–629 [200 Cal.Rptr. 586]; see also People v. Wright (1996) 52 Cal.App.4th 203, 209–210 [59 Cal.Rptr.2d 316] [explaining force for purposes of robbery and contrasting it with force required for assault]. []
  14. California Penal Code Section 211 PC. []
  15. California Penal Code 213 PC []
  16. California Penal Code 213 PC []
  17. California Penal Code 212.5 []
  18. California Penal Code 672 []
  19. California Penal Code 213 []
  20. California Penal Code 12022.53 PC []
  21. California Penal Code 667(e)(1) []
  22. California Penal Code, §§ 664, 211; People v. Webster (1991) 54 Cal.3d 411, 443 [285 Cal.Rptr. 31, 814 P.2d 1273]. []
  23. California Penal Code, §§ 484, 487g; People v. Webster, supra, at p. 443; People v. Ortega (1998) 19 Cal.4th 686, 694, 699 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 489, 968 P.2d 48]; see People v. Cooksey (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 1407, 1411–1413 [116 Cal.Rptr.2d 1] [insufficient evidence to require instruction]. []
  24. People v. Gamble (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 446, 450 [27 Cal.Rptr.2d 451] [construing former Pen. Code, § 487h]; People v. Escobar (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 477, 482 [53 Cal.Rptr.2d 9] [same]. []
  25. People v. Covington (1934) 1 Cal.2d 316, 320 [34 P.2d 1019]. []
  26. People v. Villa (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 1429, 1433–1434 [69 Cal.Rptr.3d 282]. []

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