As with any crime, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime in order for a conviction. Under California law, the crime of robbery has five elements:
- taking property that is not your own;
- the property is taken from another person’s body or immediate possession;
- the property is taken against the person’s will;
- there must be the use of force or threats; and
- there must be intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property or for an extended period of time.
When interpreting each element, it is important to know how the courts define each element. For example, although “taking property” requires that you obtain possession of the property, and carry it away; the courts require only the slightest bit of movement to satisfy the element of “taking property.” That means, if you take possession of some one’s cell phone, and move it only a few inches; you have carried it away and the element has been met. Interestingly, the court will still find that the element has been met even if you show that you changed your mind and immediately put the cell phone back.
Another interesting interpretation involves the element of the “use of force or threats.” The element can be met even if the victim is unconscious. So, for example, if a person is passed out on the street, and you take his wallet, the element of taking property by force or threat is still satisfied because courts consider this example as a situation where the property is taken against the person’s “will” and therefore, considered to be taken by force.
Because the crime of robbery involves the use of force, it is considered a felony and is punishable by 2-9 years in state prison. California distinguishes between first degree robbery and second degree robbery. First degree cases are more serious and include car-jacking, robbing an inhabited home, or robbing someone who is using or just used an ATM. All other robberies are considered second degree. The statute for robbery is California Penal Code section 211.