Robbery is a theft crime where a person takes another person’s property through physical force, the threat of force, or intimidation.
This crime is considered a felony due to the intent to deprive the victim of their property permanently.
In some jurisdictions, it is not required for the use or threat of force to be directed at the intended victim for the act to be classified as robbery.
What if a Weapon is Involved?
When a firearm or other weapon is involved in the commission of the crime, it is often labeled as armed robbery, which carries more severe legal consequences.
What are the Elements of Robbery?
The laws and statutes regarding the elements of robbery differ among states. However, generally, the following conditions must be met for a theft crime to be classified as a robbery:
- The act of taking and carrying away;
- The personal property belonging to another person;
- From the victim’s possession or in their presence;
- Against the victim’s will;
- By employing force, fear, violence, intimidation, or the threat of force.
Taking and Carrying Away
Scenario: A man is sitting on a park bench using his laptop. Another person approaches him, suddenly snatches the laptop from the man’s hands, and runs away with it.
In this case, the act of taking and carrying away the laptop has been committed.
The Personal Property Belonging to Another Person
Scenario: A woman is waiting for a bus at a bus stop with her purse hanging from her shoulder.
A thief comes up behind her, cuts the purse strap with a knife, and takes the purse.
The purse, which is the woman’s personal property, has been stolen.
From the Victim’s Possession or in Their Presence
Scenario: A man walks down the street, talking on his smartphone.
A robber approaches him, threatens him with a knife, and demands that he hand over his smartphone.
The victim complies, and the robber takes the phone directly from the victim’s possession and in his presence.
Against the Victim’s Will
Scenario: A woman is withdrawing money from an ATM when a thief comes up behind her, puts a gun on her back, and orders her to hand over the cash. The woman, fearing for her life, complies with the thief’s demand.
In this situation, the cash is taken against the victim’s will due to the threat of violence.
By Employing Force
Scenario: A man is walking through a dimly lit parking lot when an attacker suddenly grabs him from behind. The attacker wrestles the man to the ground and forcefully takes his wallet from his pocket before fleeing. In this case, the attacker employed physical force to steal the wallet.
By Employing Fear
Scenario: A store clerk is working the cash register when an individual walks in wearing a mask, points a gun at the clerk, and demands all the money in the register.
The clerk, terrified for their life, complies and hands over the cash.
In this situation, fear is used to facilitate the robbery.
By Employing Violence
Scenario: A woman is walking home late at night when she is suddenly confronted by an assailant who punches her in the face, causing her to fall to the ground.
While she is disoriented, the assailant steals her purse and runs off.
This example demonstrates robbery through the use of violence.
By Employing Intimidation
Scenario: A man is waiting for a train on a subway platform when a group of individuals surrounds him.
They start making threatening gestures and telling the man they will hurt him if he doesn’t hand over his wallet.
Feeling intimidated and outnumbered, the man complies and gives them his wallet.
By Employing the Threat of Force
Scenario: A bank teller is working at her station when a man walks up and slips her a note that reads, “I have a gun. Give me all the money in your drawer, or I will shoot you.”
The teller, fearing for her life and believing the man has a weapon, hands over the money.
In this case, the robbery is committed through the threat of force.
What is the Use of Force?
Using force is crucial in defining robbery, as it distinguishes it from other theft crimes.
Some examples of weapons or items that may constitute the use of force in this context include:
- Baseball bats;
- Explosives; and
- Fake or toy weapons, as long as they were treated as real weapons under the given circumstances.
What Are Some Legal Defenses to Robbery?
Robbery is generally considered a serious crime due to its violent nature, and most states treat it accordingly. However, a person accused of robbery may have access to specific legal defenses, depending on their case’s unique circumstances.
Some of these defenses may include:
- Burden of Proof: The prosecution is responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, including each element of the charge, such as the taking away of a person’s property by force;
- Lack of Evidence: The prosecution must provide reliable evidence to support the robbery charges. If they cannot produce sufficient evidence, such as proof of the defendant’s whereabouts during the robbery, the defendant may be acquitted;
- Innocence: A witness who can corroborate the defendant’s alibi might undermine the prosecution’s case, potentially leading to the defendant’s acquittal;
- Intoxication: If the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, it could be a valid defense. However, voluntary intoxication may only serve to argue for a lesser charge, as the necessary intent to commit robbery may be lacking;
- Duress: This defense is applicable if the defendant was forced to commit the robbery under the threat of death or bodily harm. Proving duress can be challenging, as the defendant must demonstrate that they had no alternative but to commit the crime to avoid severe harm;
- True Owner: This defense can be used if the defendant can establish that they genuinely believed they were the rightful owner of the stolen property.
How Are Robbery Offenses Punished?
Robbery is classified as a felony, and the severity of the punishment often depends on the specific details of the crime.
Factors considered when determining the appropriate punishment for a robbery conviction include the following:
- The involvement of a firearm or other weapon;
- The defendant’s previous criminal record, particularly prior robbery charges;
- Whether the defendant is currently on probation;
- The nature and value of the stolen property; and
- The number of accomplices involved in the crime, such as getaway drivers or lookouts.
Legal consequences for a robbery conviction may include:
- Imprisonment ranging from one year to life, depending on the case’s specifics;
- Fines and court fees; and
- Court-ordered educational or rehabilitation programs.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help with Robbery Charges?
If you are facing robbery charges, it is highly recommended that you consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your state’s specific laws regarding theft and robbery.
Additionally, an attorney can evaluate your case to determine if any viable defenses are available to you.
A competent attorney can also guide you through the legal process, represent you in court, and advocate on your behalf during any necessary court hearings.
This legal support can be crucial in achieving the best possible outcome for your case, whether that involves negotiating a plea deal, reducing the charges, or obtaining an acquittal.