The Old Sacramento Bridge

California Penal Code Sections 211 and 459


California Penal Code section 211 defines robbery as a taking of property from another person by force or through fear. All robberies are felonies and considered "strikes." Robbery differs from theft and burglary in that it involves a person-to-person interaction that involves force, intimidation, and/or coercion.

Robbery can be charged as first or second degree.

  • Robberies committed in inhabited dwellings, vessels, or trailer coaches; against drivers and passengers of taxis, subways, trolleys, and trains; or against people using ATM machines are considered first degree robbery. Depending on the circumstances, conviction for first degree robbery carries a state prison term of 3 to 9 years.
  • Robberies other than those described above are considered second degree, and carry prison terms of 2, 3, or 5 years.

Prison sentences for robbery can be enhanced if the robbery involves the use of a weapon. The mere use of a weapon while committing a robbery - for example, brandishing it as a form of intimidation - can add 10 years to the prison term. Discharge of a firearm can add 20 years.

Finally, Penal Code section 215 defines carjacking as the taking of a vehicle from the driver or a passenger through force or fear. Conviction of carjacking is a felony punishable by 3, 5, or 9 years in state prison.


California Penal Code section 459 defines burglary as entering a residence or building with the intent to commit a theft or any crime classified as a felony. A common misperception is that burglary is always associated with theft. But the legal definition of burglary is much broader and encompasses many more actions.

There are three key points to keep in mind about burglary.

  • First, any entering of a building with the intent to commit a theft - whether it's petty theft or grand theft, or classified as a misdemeanor or felony - qualifies as a burglary.
  • Second, entering a building with the intent to commit any felony meets the definition of burglary. For example, breaking into an apartment to commit a sexual assault would be classified as burglary.
  • Third, intent is crucial. All that is required to be charged with burglary is evidence that you entered a building or home with the intent to commit a theft or felony. Even if you left the building without committing a crime, burglary can still be charged.

Burglary can be charged in the first or second degree.

  • First degree burglary is charged when a person enters an inhabited house, vessel, or trailer coach, and is a felony and a "strike." Conviction of first degree burglary comes with a state prison term of 2, 4, or 6 years.
  • All other burglaries - such as of a vehicle, store or warehouse - are second degree, and are considered "wobblers," meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Conviction of second degree burglary comes with a jail term of less than 1 year if charged as a misdemeanor, or up to 3 years in state prison if charged as a felony.
The Importance of Quality Legal Defense

The district attorney's offices of the Sacramento region - in Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, and El Dorado Counties - aggressively prosecute robberies and burglaries. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you and protect your rights and interests. Call me at 916-442-1200 for a free and confidential consultation.

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