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Penal Code 211 is the most serious of the three crimes in question.
2. What is a California theft?
If you don’t use force or fear to accomplish a taking, or if the property isn’t in the person’s “immediate presence,” then you simply have a theft. The distinction between theft vs robbery turns on whether force or fear was used.
Despite common misconception, a burglary under California Penal Code 459 doesn’t necessarily involve stealing. A burglary takes place when you enter a building and already have the intent to commit a felony or to steal.3
This means that if you go into a house and intend to steal once inside, you have committed burglary and theft. If during that time, someone comes home and you threaten to harm him if he stops you from taking more property, you have committed robbery, burglary, and theft.
But if you enter a store, simply intending to shop, and only form the intent to steal once inside, you don’t commit a burglary. And whether you use force or fear to accomplish the taking will determine whether or not you are only guilty of theft or also of robbery. (Also read our article, “Three California Crimes Often Charged During Emergencies.”)
See California Penal Code Sections 487 and 484 PC.
California Penal Code 459 PC.
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.