What is an Estes Robbery?

An Estes Robbery is when a Shoplifting crime (link to shoplifting) can become a Robbery case (link to robbery page). When a store employee or a loss prevention specialist follows after a shoplifter, and the shoplifter uses force of violence to get away and avoid being stopped, the use of force would elevate this charge from Shoplifting to Robbery.

The theory comes from the case People v. Estes back in 1983, where a shoplifter stole a coat from a department store, and then when approached, swung a knife at a security guard to getaway. There, the shoplifter now became charged with a more serious Robbery offense, by using force with the knife.

How are the punishments different?

A person charged with a robbery could be facing a prison sentence of up to 2, 3, or 5 years in a State Prison. They would also be looking at a Strike under California’s Three Strikes Law (link).

As opposed to a Shoplifting charge, where a person is more likely looking to community service, fines, or even a potential Diversion dismissal of their case. A punishment for Shoplifting can be up to 6 months in a County Jail, as opposed to a State Prison case like Robbery.

What must be shown to change your Shoplifting charge into a Robbery charge?

For a Prosecutor to prove you guilty under the Estes Robbery Theory, they must show the following:

  1. You took or shoplifted some merchandise from a store;
  2. You were then approached by an employee or loss prevention/security guard; and
  3. You used force or fear to get away from the employee or loss prevention/security guard.

Force or fear is what elevates Shoplifting to Robbery.


An Estes Robbery is where a simple Shoplifting can become a much more serious Robbery charge. Your simple theft from a store can land you in prison for up to 5 years instead. It is imperative to find the right defense against such a serious charge. Your freedom and your future are at stake. Here at Inland Empire Criminal Defense, we have defended thousands of people charged with crimes in Southern California.

We can help you through your criminal case, give us a call at 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.