Use of force to take someone's property from their immediate presence. If he didn't take anything then he wouldn't have been charged with robbery. If he tried to take something, but didn't then it's attempted robbery. Appears all of the facts are not in this fact pattern. Good luck.
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The DA reviewed the police reports and decided to file the charges. Doubtless, he read a different version of the facts than you recited here; his version is that your b/f tried to take something from the other guy by using force. Whether the case can be proven is another matter. The case could settle for an admission to a violation of probation. Many times, the VOP is more problematic than the new/underlying charge.
This is a complicated situation. You will not want to have him represent himself. Typically a public defender can be acquired in a case involving attempted robbery. You should really get in touch with the public defenders office or a private defense attorney.
Robbery is a theft effectuated by violence of some type. This is a very serious charge. He needs an aggressive attorney to contest the legal basis for robbery during the preliminary hearing.