Estes Robbery Defense

In People v. Estes (1983) 147 Cal. App. 3d 23, a department store's security guard saw defendant put on a vest and coat and walk out without paying for the items. The guard followed the defendant out of the store, identified himself, and confronted the defendant about the property. The guard asked defendant to accompany him back inside the store but the defendant refused. When the guard attempted to detain him, the defendant displayed a knife and threatened to kill the guard. The guard returned to the store for help, but eventually detained the defendant outside the store with the help of another employee. At trial, the defendant admitted stealing the coat and vest but denied using the knife. He was convicted of robbery. (Id. at p. 26.) Estes rejected the defendant's numerous challenges to his robbery conviction, including his argument that the property was not taken from a person since the security guard lacked sufficient authority or control over the property. Estes held the security guard was the owner's agent, directly responsible for the security of the items, and in constructive possession of the merchandise. (Estes, supra, 147 Cal. App. 3d at p. 27.) The defendant also argued the merchandise had not been taken from the "'immediate presence'" of the security guard. (Id. at p. 27.) Estes rejected this argument: "... The evidence establishes that appellant forceably resisted the security guard's efforts to retake the property and used that force to remove the items from the guard's immediate presence. By preventing the guard from regaining control over the merchandise, defendant is held to have taken the property as if the guard had actual possession of the goods in the first instance. " (Estes, supra, 147 Cal. App. 3d at p. 27.) Estes held that regardless of the means by which a defendant originally acquired the property, a robbery occurred when a defendant used force or fear to resist the attempts to regain the property, or to attempt to remove the property from the owner's immediate presence. (Estes, supra, 147 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 27-28.) In People v. Gordon (1982) 136 Cal. App. 3d 519, the defendant and an accomplice entered a residence, threatened the occupants with a firearm, and took from their adult son's bedroom a large amount of cash and marijuana. (Id. at pp. 523-524.) Gordon affirmed the defendant's robbery conviction and held "the parents possessed these personal items of their adult son for purposes of the robbery statute." (Id. at p. 529.) A different result was reached in Sykes v. Superior Court (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 479, based on the lack of a connection between the alleged "victim" and the store which was robbed. The defendant stole a saxophone from a music store, and he was chased and apprehended by Hensley, a security guard working for a nearby store. He was convicted of burglary of the music store, and robbery of Hensley. (Id. at pp. 481-482.)