When Is A Possession Of Property Owned By Another A Victim Of Robbery
September 18th, 2015

People v. Scott (2009) 45 Cal. 4th 743, 751-757, discussed the language in CC 1600 dealing with constructive possession of property by store employees. Scott disapproved the Court of Appeal’s opinion in People v. Frazer (2003) 106 Cal. App. 4th 1105, to the extent that Frazer found that courts should adopt a narrow view regarding what types of victims can be in constructive possession of property when the victims are employees and property is taken from their employer in robbery cases. (Ibid.) Scott observed that CC, unlike the CJ equivalent, provides a pinpoint instruction to these situation which is consistent with Frazer. (Ibid.)


The portion of CC 1600 referenced by Scott provides:


If the facts show that the employee was a representative of the owner of the property and the employee expressly or implicitly had authority over the property, then that employee may be robbed if property of the store or business is taken by force or fear.


Despite this portion of CC 1600 being based on Frazer, and Scott’s disapproval of Frazer, the CC instruction still appears to correctly state the law in contexts other than ones dealing with employees, and Scott did not indicate otherwise. In light of Scott, however, courts should not rely on Frazer to further modify or narrow the definition of possession and control for purposes of robbery.


People v. Bradford (2010) 187 Cal. App. 4th 1345, 1352-53, upheld CC 1600 in the context of advising the jury when persons had sufficient relation with the owners of property to constitute robbery victims:


The version of [CC1600] that was given to the jury in this case did not explicitly advise the jury that a “special relationship” between the guards and [the business that owned the property] was necessary, but it did require a determination that the guards were “representatives” of the store with express or implicit authority over the property. We agree with the Attorney General that more was required to prove the guards were ‘representatives’ of [the business that owned the property] than would have been needed to prove that they had a “special relationship” with that business. The instruction given was, if anything, more stringent than the requirements recognized in People v. Scott, 45 Cal 4th 743, and any defect inured to appellant’s benefit.

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