Robbery is a form of felony theft that is defined as the taking of property from another person by the use of force, intimidation, or the threat of force. Hence, why it is sometimes referred to as “larceny by threat or force.”
In some states, the use or threat of force does not need to be directed at the intended victim, however, the threat does need to be immediate and the crime must be committed in the presence of the victim.
Although the laws of each state slightly differ in their definitions of what constitutes a robbery charge, the general elements of robbery typically include:
- The taking and carrying away;
- Of the personal property of another;
- From their possession or in their presence;
- Against their will;
- By force, fear, violence, intimidation, or threat of force.
It is important to note that while robbery is often confused with the crime of burglary, they are not the same thing. Burglary involves the breaking and entering of a home or other building with the intent to commit a felony inside.
The primary differences between the two are the “breaking and entering” element and the fact that burglary does not necessarily involve the use or threat of force.
Robbery penalties may differ depending on the degree of robbery committed. For instance, robbery that does not result in any injury or severe use of violence is usually considered a second-degree felony in the majority of states.
Robbery can become a first-degree offense if the defendant uses dangerous weapons, accomplishes the crime by inflicting severe injury on the victim, or attempts to kill the victim during the commission of the crime.
Since robbery can be considered an inherently dangerous felony where death is a foreseeable consequence, a robbery can also become a first-degree felony murder charge if someone is killed during the carrying out of the crime. This may be true even if the defendant never intended to kill the victim.
Other factors that are generally used to determine the seriousness of a robbery charge include:
- Whether the use of a firearm or weapon was involved (i.e., armed robbery);
- The type of property stolen;
- Where the crime took place;
- The type of victim that the crime was committed against;
- Whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or if they are currently on probation;
- The number of accomplices involved with the commission of the crime, such as getaway drivers or lookouts; and
- Whether the amount of force applied resulted in the injury or death of the victim.
The consequences that a defendant may face for conviction of a robbery include probation, criminal fines, and imprisonment, ranging from a year to a life sentence.
Again, this will depend on the relevant requirements and factors that vary according to each state’s statutes and the degree of robbery involved.
Robbery is considered a serious crime in almost every state. For every robbery charge, the government will have the burden of proving that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that every element of the charge must be proven by the prosecution, which the defendant is allowed to rebut through the use of an affirmative defense.
An affirmative defense means that one of the elements of the crime in question cannot be proven for some specific reason. For example, if the defendant took the personal property of another, but did not intend to steal it (e.g., borrow), then they may be able to assert this as an affirmative defense so long as they can prove it.
Other potential defenses to robbery include:
- Intoxication: If the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated (i.e., intoxicated against their will or without their knowledge), then it may constitute a defense.
- Also, if the person was voluntarily intoxicated, they might be able to receive a lesser penalty if they can successfully argue that they did not have the type of intent required to commit a robbery.
- Duress: If the defendant was forced by a threat of death or bodily injury to commit the robbery, then they may be able to claim duress as a defense.
- This sometimes occurs when the defendant is a member of a gang.
- Lack of Evidence: If the prosecutor cannot prove certain evidence, such as the identity of the defendant, they had an alibi during the commission of the crime, or that nothing was stolen or intended to be stolen, then this may be a defense.
- True Owner: It might be a defense if the defendant believed that they were the true owner of the personal property that they took, or even if they were the actual owner (this will depend on the circumstances and proof of ownership will be required).
If you are accused of robbery, then you should contact a local criminal defense lawyer immediately. They will be able to provide information about how to protect your rights, whether any defenses are applicable to your case, what the laws in your particular state are, and what your best options are regarding how to proceed.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can also help prepare your case, negotiate on your behalf during a plea agreement, and provide representation in court if necessary.
Alternatively, if you are a victim of a robbery, you should call the police. They will determine whether there is enough evidence to forward it to the local district attorney’s office. The district attorney will then decide whether to prosecute the person who committed the crime against you or drop it if they think there is not enough evidence.
If the prosecutor decides to drop the case, you still have the option of contacting a local attorney and bringing a case against the defendant as a private matter.