Penal Code § 212.5 PC defines first-degree robbery as robbery of (1) the driver or passenger of a vehicle, (2) a person in an inhabited dwelling (for example, a house), or (3) a person who has recently used an ATM.
Robbery of the first degree is a felony offense punishable by up to 9 years in state prison.
The language of PC 212.5 states:
“(a) Every robbery of any person who is performing his or her duties as an operator of any bus, taxicab, cable car, streetcar, trackless trolley, or other vehicle…every robbery of any passenger which is perpetrated on any of these vehicles, and every robbery which is perpetrated in an inhabited dwelling house…is robbery of the first degree.
(b) Every robbery of any person while using an automated teller machine or immediately after the person has used an automated teller machine and is in the vicinity of the automated teller machine is robbery of the first degree.”
- using force or fear to steal a taxicab driver’s money,
- robbing a person while on their boat.
- holding a gun at a person and demanding their money, which was recently retrieved from an ATM.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients challenge first-degree robbery charges. Some of these include showing that:
- you were arrested because of mistaken identity,
- there was no underlying robbery, and/or
- you were falsely accused.
A violation of California Penal Code Section 212.5 is a felony (as opposed to a misdemeanor). The punishment turns on the circumstances:
|First-degree robbery crime||California State Prison sentence|
|Acting with at least two other people, and the robbery occurs in an inhabited dwelling||3, 6, or 9 years in prison|
|All other 1st-degree robbery cases||3, 4, or 6 years in prison|
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. How does Penal Code 212.5 PC define first-degree robbery?
- 2. Can I raise a legal defense?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. How does Penal Code 212.5 PC define first-degree robbery?
Under California law, 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,1
- the robbery takes place in an inhabited structure (for example, a house, boat, or trailer coach),2 or
- the robbery takes place while or immediately after the victim uses an automated teller machine (ATM).3
Note that a house or structure is “inhabited” if someone lives there, and either is present or has left but intends to return.4
Under PC 212.5, any other robbery not set forth as above is second-degree robbery.5 Therefore, California criminal law acknowledges two kinds of robbery:
- first-degree robbery, and
- second-degree robbery.
Per California Penal Code 211, robbery itself is the felonious taking of personal property that is in the possession of another, from their person or immediate presence, and against their will, accomplished by means of force or fear.6
2. Can I raise a legal defense?
You have the right to contest charges under California’s robbery laws with legal defenses. Three common defenses include showing that you:
- were arrested because of a mistaken identity.
- did not commit a robbery.
- were falsely accused.
2.1. Mistaken identity
People often commit robbery while wearing a mask, hat, or some other disguise. This means that “victims” do not always get a clear look at the offender in robbery cases. It is always a defense, then, to show that a “victim” identified you as a suspect by mistake.
2.2. No robbery
Recall that robbery is a distinct crime set forth in Penal Code 211 PC. The crime also has several elements that a prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, to secure a robbery conviction. Therefore, you can challenge a first-degree robbery charge by showing that you did not commit some underlying robbery.
2.3. Falsely accused
Sometimes people falsely accuse others of this crime. For example, they may do so in order to prove their own innocence or cover up some wrongdoing. This means that you can always challenge a charge by showing that you were unjustly blamed.
3. What are the penalties?
Penal Code 213 is the California statute that sets forth the penalties for the robbery of any person.
Per this law, first-degree robbery is a felony offense punishable by up to 9 years in state prison if:
- you acted in concert with two or more people, or
- the robbery occurred within an inhabited structure.7
All other first degree robbery charges are felony offenses punishable by up to 6 years in state prison.8
In addition to the above penalties, there are a few sentencing enhancements that can add extra prison time to a robbery conviction.
For example, if you commit robbery and cause another person to suffer a “great bodily injury,” then you could be subject to Penal Code 12022.7, California’s great bodily injury enhancement.
This sentencing enhancement can result in an additional 6 years to your robbery sentence.
Further, note that robbery is considered a “violent felony” under California law. This means it is a “strike offense” under the state’s “three strikes” law.
Per this law, if you are convicted of robbery and are then subsequently charged with any other California felony, you will face twice the normal sentence for that felony.
Also, if you accumulate three “strike” convictions, one or more of which may be a PC 211 robbery conviction, then you will receive a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to first-degree robbery. These are:
- robbery – PC 211,
- grand theft – PC 487, and
- petty theft – PC 484.
4.1. Robbery – PC 211
Per Penal Code 211, robbery is the crime where you:
- take someone else’s personal property while it is in your possession, and
- do so against that person’s will and by means of force or fear.
Per Penal Code 212 PC, you instill fear in “victims” if you cause them to worry about themselves being injured, about their property getting injured, or about a family member or someone in their company getting injured.
Robbery becomes first-degree robbery when you commit the robbery under certain circumstances, as set forth in Penal Code 212.5 (for example, by robbing someone after they take money from an ATM).
4.2. Grand theft – PC 487
Under Penal Code 487, grand theft is the crime where you unlawfully take someone else’s property that is valued at $950.00 or more.
Note that while both robbery and grand theft involve the taking of property from someone else, grand theft does not require that you take something by means of force or fear.
4.3. Petty theft – PC 484
Under Penal Code 484, petty theft is the crime where you wrongfully take or steal someone else’s property and the value of the stolen property is $950.00 or less.
California law treats petty theft as a less serious crime when compared to robbery. Petty theft is a misdemeanor that is punishable by:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm/law offices at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our attorneys also represent clients throughout California, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
- See, for example, People v. Burney (2009), 47 Cal.4th 203.
- See, for example, People v. Long (2010), 189 Cal.App.4th 826.
- California Penal Code 212.5 PC. As to robbery involving an ATM, see for example, People v. Ervin (1997), 53 Cal.App.4th 1323.
- California Penal Code 212.5 PC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 211 PC.
- California Penal Code Section 213a1A PC.
- California Penal Code 213a1B PC.