Penal Code § 212 PC is the California statute that defines the term “fear,” as it is used for the crime of robbery. According to this section, a robber instills fear in “victims” if the robber causes them to worry
- about themselves being injured,
- about their property getting injured, or
- about a family member or someone in their company getting injured.
The text of the statute reads that:
212. The fear mentioned in Section 211 may be either:
1. The fear of an unlawful injury to the person or property of the person robbed, or of any relative of his or member of his family; or,
2. The fear of an immediate and unlawful injury to the person or property of anyone in the company of the person robbed at the time of the robbery.
According to Penal Code 211, robbery is a crime in which the perpetrator takes personal property from another person, while it is in that person’s possession, and does so against that person’s will and with the use of force or fear.
California law says that there are two types of robbery. These are:
- robbery of the first degree, and
- robbery of the second degree.
First-degree robbery includes robbery of
- any driver or passenger of a bus, taxi, streetcar, subway, cable car, or other vehicle,
- any person in an inhabited structure, or
- any person who has just used an ATM and is still in the vicinity of the ATM.
All other forms of robbery are considered second-degree robbery.
Per California Penal Code Section 213, while robbery in the first degree is a felony offense punishable by up to 9 years in state prison (as opposed to county jail), second-degree robbery is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. How does California law define “fear” for the crime of robbery?
- 2. How does Penal Code 211 define robbery?
- 3. What is the difference between first- and second-degree robbery?
- 4. What are the penalties for robbery under Penal Code 213?
1. How does California law define “fear” for the crime of robbery?
California’s criminal laws state that, for the purposes of robbery, a robber puts a “victim” in fear if the robber commits some act that:
- causes the victim to fear that some injury will occur to himself/herself, a family member, or some injury to the person’s property, or
- causes the victim to fear that some injury will occur to a person in his/her company or some injury to the personal property of one of these people.1
Note that a victim’s feeling of fear must be reasonable in order for a person to be convicted of robbery.2
A judge will determine if a victim’s fear is reasonable by analyzing all of the facts in a case.3
Note, too, that a person can instill fear in the commission of a robbery by displaying a deadly weapon or by means of threats of causing death to someone. However, a person can also instill fear by more subtle means.
2. How does Penal Code 211 define robbery?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully convict someone of a robbery charge:
- the defendant took a person’s property,
- the property was in the possession of another person,
- the property was taken from the other person or that person’s immediate presence,
- the property was taken against that person’s will,
- the defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting, and
- when the defendant used force or fear, he/she intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently or for a long enough time to deprive him/her of a major portion of its value.4
Three related offenses to robbery include the following theft crimes:
- grand theft,
- petty theft, and
- grand theft auto.
Per Penal Code 487, grand theft is the crime where people unlawfully take someone else’s property that is valued at $950.00 or more.
Per Penal Code 484, petty theft is the crime where people wrongfully take or steal someone else’s property and the value of the stolen property is $950.00 or less.
Per Penal Code 487d1, grand theft auto is the crime where people take someone else’s motor vehicle, worth $950 or more, and do so without that person’s permission.
3. What is the difference between first- and second-degree robbery?
Under Penal Code 212.5 PC, first-degree robbery is any robbery where any of the following is true:
- the victim is a driver or passenger of a bus, taxi, cable car, streetcar, trackless trolley, subway, or other similar transportation for hire,
- the robbery takes place in an inhabited dwelling (for example, a house, boat, or trailer coach), or
- the robbery takes place while or immediately after the victim uses an ATM.5
A house or structure is “inhabited” if someone lives there, and either is present or has left but intends to return.6
Under PC 212.5, any other robbery not set forth above is second-degree robbery.7
Note that a defendant can challenge any robbery charge with a legal defense/disclaimer. A few common defenses include accused people showing that:
- they were arrested because of mistaken identity,
- a police officer stopped or arrested them without probable cause, and/or
- there was a mistake of fact.
4. What are the penalties for robbery under Penal Code 213?
Both first-degree robbery and second-degree robbery are felony offenses under California law (as opposed to misdemeanor offenses).
First-degree robbery is punishable by up to 9 years in state prison if:
- the defendant acted in concert with two or more people, or
- the robbery occurred within an inhabited structure.8
All other forms of first-degree robbery are punishable by up to 6 years in state prison.9
As to second-degree robbery, the crime is punishable by custody in state prison for up to five years.10
Note that there are a few sentencing enhancements that can add extra prison time to a robbery conviction.
For example, California acknowledges a great bodily injury enhancement per Penal Code 12022.7. The enhancement applies if a defendant commits robbery and causes another person to suffer a “great bodily injury.”11
This sentencing enhancement can add up to an additional 6 years to a person’s robbery sentence.12
Under the three-strikes law, if someone is convicted of robbery and is then subsequently charged with any other felony, that person will face twice the normal sentence for that felony.14
Also, if someone accumulates three “strike” convictions, one or more of which may be a PC 211 robbery conviction, then he/she will receive a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.15
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust. They also represent clients all across California, including those in Los Angeles.
- California Penal Code 212 PC. See also People v. Cuevas (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 689.
- People v. Morehead (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 765.
- People v. Montalvo (2019), 36 Cal.App.5th 597.
- CALCRIM No. 1600 – Robbery. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition)
- California Penal Code 212.5 PC.
- See same.
- See same.
- California Penal Code Section 213a1A PC.
- California Penal Code 213a1B PC.
- California Penal Code 213a2 PC.
- California Penal Code 12022.7 PC.
- See same.
- Penal Code 667.5 PC.
- Penal Code 667e1PC.
- See same.