Robbery vs. Larceny Charges

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What is Robbery?

Robbery is a form of felony theft and is defined as the taking of property from another person by the use of force, intimidation, or the threat of force. In some states, the use or threat of force does not need to be directed at the intended victim. If the robbery is committed with a firearm or other weapon, it may constitute armed robbery, which often includes a more severe penalty. It should be noted that robbery is often confused with burglary, which is the breaking and entering a structure with the purpose to commit a crime within.

Each state has different penal codes in defining the elements of a robbery charge, but the general elements of robbery consists of:

What is Larceny?

Felony larceny is a specific type of felony theft crime. In most jurisdictions, larceny is defined as the “unlawful taking and carrying away of the property of another person, with the intent to permanently deprive them of its use.”
Larceny is usually a misdemeanor charge. However, theft crimes can lead to felony charges in some jurisdictions if the property stolen is above a certain amount (usually in the thousands of dollars). Felony larceny is sometimes called grand theft. 

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, making larceny a lesser-included crime.  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.

Are the Penalties Different for Robbery vs. Larceny?

Larceny is generally classified as a misdemeanor offense. Penalties for misdemeanors can range from moderate to less severe, and may include smaller criminal fines along with short jail time (less than one year). For less serious larceny crimes (such as petty theft or shoplifting), a citation may result. The penalties for larceny are usually proportionate to the amount that was stolen.

In comparison, robbery can sometimes be classified as a felony. Penalties for robbery may include prison sentences of greater than one year, higher criminal fines, and other measures such as probation. Aggravating factors such as the use of a deadly weapon can result in increased penalties.

What is an Example of a Lesser-Included Crime?

An example of a lesser-included crime within a greater crime is larceny and robbery. Larceny, commonly called theft, is the trespassory taking of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them and without their permission. Robbery is defined as larceny committed with the use of force, intimidation, or threat of violence. Thus, a person will commit larceny as well if they commit robbery. However, they will likely only be charged with robbery because it was the greater crime. 

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 are facing charges of robbery and/or larceny, and have any questions, concerns, or issues involving robbery, larceny, or other theft crimes, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer 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: 09-29-2017 01:27 PM PDT

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