Fear to Accomplish Robbery in California

In People v. Flynn (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 766, the defendant loitered with five other men in a street corner that was part of his gang's territory. The defendant grabbed the physically smaller victim's bag as she walked past the group. (Id. at p. 770) The victim was "angry, shocked, and afraid of being jumped" and attempted to pull her bag from the defendant. (Ibid.) After the defendant took the bag, he removed and displayed a gun and a $5 bill from the bag. (Ibid.) The victim ran after the defendant screamed at her, and she was too afraid to report the crime until her mother convinced her to do so 10 days later. (Ibid.) The jury convicted the defendant of robbery, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. (Id. at pp. 770, 773.) It explained the fear element of robbery can result not just from the defendant's specific words or actions, but also the circumstances surrounding the taking. (Id. at p. 772.) Based on the circumstances, the defendant used fear to accomplish the robbery "just as surely as if he had verbalized the threats inherent in the surrounding circumstances." (Id. at p. 773.) The defendant was physically larger than the victim, his group outnumbered her six to one, and he committed the crime in his gang's territory. (Ibid.) His "brazen behavior once he was armed with the stolen gun revealed his confidence in the powerlessness of the victim," and the fearful victim did not report the crime until 10 days later. (Id. at pp. 772-773.)