Robbery vs. Larceny Charges

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What is the Difference Between Robbery vs. Larceny Charges?

Robbery and larceny are both categorized as theft crimes.  However, they are very different from one another. 

Robbery is generally defined as: the unauthorized taking of another’s personal property from their presence, with the use of force or threats of serious bodily injury, and with intent to permanently deprive them of the object.  Larceny is defined as: the unauthorized taking of another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of the use of the property. 

So, the basic distinction between robbery and larceny is that robbery involves the use of force, whereas larceny doesn’t.  As such, robbery is prosecuted as a more serious crime than larceny, and usually involves more serious legal penalties. 

How Does Sentencing Work for Robbery vs. Larceny?

Robbery is classified as a felony charge, which involves legal penalties such as criminal fines, and a sentence in prison for one year or longer.  In contrast, larceny is categorized as a misdemeanor, which involves lower criminal fines.  Also, misdemeanors are punishable by a sentence of one year maximum in a jail facility, rather than a prison facility.

Can Robbery and Larceny be Merged?

Because robbery and larceny are so similar and are closely related, they may often be subject to the doctrine of merger in criminal sentencing.  Merger may occur when the defendant is charged with two crimes.  For example, the person may have attempted to commit larceny on one person, then pulled out a gun and committed robbery on that same person.

In this case, the judge may decide to “merge” the charges into one, resulting in fewer charges on the person’s criminal record, and perhaps resulting in an overall lesser sentence.  The lesser charge (in this case, larceny or attempted larceny) will usually be merged into the more severe charge (robbery).  The defendant will usually have to serve the sentence for the more serious crime, instead of the sentences for both crimes.

Merger laws can be very different from state to state.  Also, the judge has much discretion when it comes to the decision of whether or not to merge charges.  It will mostly depend on the facts in each individual situation, as well as the background of the criminal defendant in the case.

Are There Any Defenses to Robbery or Larceny?

Mistake is a common defense for larceny.  For example, if the defendant believed that the property was theirs at the time they took it, it may serve as a defense.  Other defense may be available, such as intoxication, coercion, or consent.

On the other hand, robbery is somewhat harder to defend against.  This is because of the aspect of physical force or threats of harm to the victim.  However, a skilled lawyer can examine the facts to determine the exact defenses available to the defendant in a robbery case.  These are similar to the defenses raised in larceny, and can also include coercion and other defenses.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Robbery or Larceny Charges?

Robbery or larceny charges can lead to some serious criminal penalties.  If you have any questions, concerns, or issues involving robbery, larceny, or other theft crimes, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.  Your lawyer can provide you with expert legal advice and guidance, and will be able to represent you during formal court hearings.

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Last Modified: 10-19-2012 10:56 AM PDT

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