When discussing criminal offenses involving the use of a weapon during a robbery, there is often confusion about how these crimes are classified under California law. Are they considered robbery charges, gun crimes, or both? The reality is that an armed robbery can potentially lead to charges under multiple statutes depending on the specific circumstances.

To understand this better, we first must explore the legal definitions of robbery and firearms offenses in California.

Robbery Under California Law

Robbery Under California Law

In California, robbery is defined as the felonious taking of personal property from another person or their immediate presence, against their will, accomplished by means of force or fear. Under the California Penal Code Section 211, the key elements are:

  • Taking of property
  • From another person’s possession or immediate presence
  • Against the victim’s will
  • Using force or fear

If a robbery involves the use of a weapon, such as a gun, it is considered an “armed robbery” which carries enhanced penalties. However, the crime is still primarily classified as a robbery offense.

Gun Crimes Under California Law

California has various laws prohibiting the possession, use, and other conduct involving firearms. Some relevant statutes include:

  • Penal Code 25850(a) – Carrying a loaded firearm in public
  • Penal Code 245(a)(2) – Assault with a firearm
  • Penal Code 246 – Shooting at an inhabited dwelling/vehicle
  • Penal Code 417 – Brandishing a firearm

An armed robbery could potentially trigger charges under these firearms laws in addition to the robbery charge itself if the defendant’s actions meet the respective legal criteria.

Charging Armed Robberies

When an armed robbery occurs, prosecutors have discretion in terms of which charges to file against the defendant based on the specific facts of the case. Some common charging scenarios include:

  • Robbery (Penal Code 211): This is the baseline charge for any robbery, with additional sentencing enhancements if a firearm was used.
  • Robbery + firearms charges: If the defendant’s conduct also violated firearms laws, separate counts could be filed (e.g. robbery + assault with a firearm).
  • Attempted murder: In extreme cases involving shooting at victims, attempted murder charges may apply in lieu of standard robbery charges.

The type and number of charges filed can significantly impact the potential penalties if convicted. This is why skilled legal representation is crucial.

Penalties for Armed Robbery in California

The punishments for armed robbery in California are quite severe. A basic robbery conviction can result in two to five years in state prison. However, when a firearm is involved, additional penalties apply:

  • Personal use of a firearm (Penal Code 12022.53(b)): Additional 10 years
  • Firearm discharge (Penal Code 12022.53(c)): Additional 20 years
  • Injuring a victim (Penal Code 12022.53(d)): Additional 25-life

These firearm enhancements are consecutive, meaning they are added on top of the base robbery sentence. Moreover, defendants can face additional years for prior strike convictions under California’s Three Strikes law.

Other consequences of an armed robbery conviction may include:

  • Strike on record (Under Three Strikes Law)
  • Immigration consequences
  • Loss of employment/professional licenses
  • Loss of gun rights
  • Court fines/fees

So, while an armed robbery is technically categorized as a robbery offense, it carries much harsher penalties precisely because a firearm was involved during the commission of the crime.

Defenses Against Armed Robbery Charges

If you or a loved one has been charged with armed robbery, there are various potential legal defenses that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can explore, such as:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Lack of specific intent to commit robbery
  • Credible claim of self-defense
  • Police misconduct (illegal search/coerced confession)
  • Insufficient evidence

Every case is unique, so it is critical to have a lawyer carefully evaluate all the facts and circumstances to craft the most effective defense strategy. In some situations, a skilled attorney may negotiate with prosecutors to reduce armed robbery charges to lesser offenses through crafty plea bargaining. This could involve arguments about:

  • The Firearm was inoperable/fake
  • The defendant was an unwitting accomplice
  • There were mitigating circumstances
  • Insufficient evidence for most serious charges

While such reductions are never guaranteed, they are sometimes possible when working with a highly experienced criminal lawyer who knows how to identify leverage and protect their client’s rights.

Our Dedicated Attorneys Can Help

If you or someone you know has been accused of this crime, it is absolutely critical to obtain aggressive and knowledgeable legal representation as soon as possible. Do not try to handle an armed robbery case alone, as the stakes are far too high. Protect your rights and freedom by consulting with our top California criminal defense attorneys at Kosnett Law Firm today.

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