I just represented a client arrested on a PC 211 Estes robbery charge in Los Angeles county criminal court. On the Los Angeles robbery charge she was being held on $100,000 bail and the family didn’t know what to do. They wanted to bail her out but didn’t want to spend $10,000 only to see her go right back in at sentencing. They also couldn’t understand how their daughter could possibly be charged with violent felony offense like robbery. She had a few misdemeanor priors and an alcohol problem but they couldn’t imagine their daughter walking into a liquor store with a gun. How could she be charged with a robbery under PC 211? Was this going to count as a strike on her record?
I explained to my client and her family that robbery is one of those charges that tends to catch people up in the system. The reason for this is that the legal definition of PC 211 robbery in California is theft by force or fear. The penalties for this charge are significant because it is considered a violent felony under PC-667.5(c)(9). This means that PC 211 Estes Robbery it’s a “strike” under the California Three Strike sentencing scheme.
The consequences of an offense being classified as a violent felony in California are many but to summarize a few highlights
- You serve 85% (technically 86.9%) of your prison time instead of half time like the general prison population.
- Your housing location in prison will be different due to the qualifying factor of being incarcerated on a “violent” felony.
- If you commit another felony crime in the future you will face DOUBLE the regular sentence.
- You lose eligibility for drug treatment programs under PC1210 (aka Prop 36) as well as several other types of alternative sentencing.
- If you get two “strike” offenses you will face 25 years to life on any subsequent strike conviction.
How is a PC 211 Estes Robbery Different from a regular robbery charge?
In most California robbery cases we are dealing with a very dangerous situation. Remember a robbery is a theft by force or fear. By adding the use of force or fear to accomplish the theft, the increased public safety risk merits the increased punishment. This all sounds about right for someone walking into a liquor store with a gun to hold the place up. Someone in that scenario should receive a strong sentence. Most people would certainly agree that this is a more serious crime than simply shoplifting without any force or violence.
The problem is that the overzealous prosecutors sometimes try to apply the definition to situations that really don’t feel like a robbery.
For example, if I kick your ass and take your wallet, that’s a robbery. If I pick your pocket, its still a crime but it’s not a robbery. What about if someone steals a purse and uses force to remove the purse strap? Does the use of force to remove the purse strap satisfy the force or fear element for robbery? How about when one kid tells another kid “give me your bike or else!” It’s a theft, and it’s accomplished by the use of fear, so it fits the legal definition of a robbery in California….. but do we really want our children growing up incarcerated for lengthy prison terms for bullying? This seems like the type of behavior that should be stopped, but not the type of behavior that should result in a conviction for a violent felony.
The most controversial stretching of the robbery definition is known as a PC 211 Estes robbery. For an “Estes” robbery, the situation plays out like this….First you take a pack of gum from the neighborhood store (the theft), and then you run like hell. When security sees this happen they chase after you. They try to stop you and when they tackle you on the asphalt in the parking lot there is a struggle (the force). Hello Robbery.
Under California law, this is the same crime as any other robbery with all the same consequences at sentencing. Now of course there are again areas of dispute. For example what if the pack of gum is thrown down or abandoned before the struggle? But what if instead of a pack of gum it’s a stack of wood and when you throw it down it injures security? What if they struggle isn’t really a struggle? What if the force was initiated by the security guard and the person who committed the theft is simply defending themselves? Is the loss prevention officer a former linebacker who took the job because he likes tackling thieves in the parking lot? Did the loss prevention officer comply with the store policy for contacting and detaining shoplifters?
If you are facing a PC 211 Estes robbery charge in a California court, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately to discuss your options. With the right defense strategy PC 211 Estes robbery cases can often be negotiated down to lesser left charges such a grand theft person under PC 487 or even petty theft under PC 484. If negotiations fail, theses cases often present good opportunities for successful litigation at preliminary hearing or jury trial. If you would like to discuss your case further feel free to call me at 800-797-8406 or send me an email at attorney firstname.lastname@example.org