San Francisco Muni Lunch Thief May Face Charges of Petty Theft and Robbery (CA Penal Code 484, 488, 211)

In the Bayview, a woman was waiting for the Muni Metro light rail when an unidentified suspect came along and stole her lunch, but not before she tried to prevent it and was physically assaulted.  It happened near Third Street and Williams Avenue and local law enforcement officials believe that they have captured the unusual theft on tape through video surveillance equipment at the station.  No one is certain as to why the man stole the woman’s lunch.

If apprehended, the unidentified man will most likely be subject to charges of petty theft (CA Penal Code 484 and 488), which it is defined as the unlawful taking of another person’s property that is valued at under or at $950. In this case, the man would face misdemeanor charges, and possibly a max $1,000 fine with up to 6 months in county jail.

However, this law may not apply in this case, as the man actually snatched the lunch from the woman as she was holding it, waiting for the train.  Could the theft of such a small thing lead to charges of robbery?  In California, it certainly could.  Even though the lunch was probably not worth much in monetary terms (CA Penal Code 211) states that ‘robbery’ includes taking property directly from another person, against their wishes and that it was taken by force.  Put simply, if it can be proven that the woman had the lunch in her hand and that the man punched her in order to get it away from her, then he could be facing first degree robbery charges (and, perhaps assault charges) and up to 9 years in state prison.