Robbery is a form of felony theft and generally is defined as the taking of property from another person by the use of force, intimidation, or the threat of force. State laws may vary with regard to exact definitions of robbery. For instance, In some states, the use or threat of force does not actually need to be directed at the intended victim. 

If a robbery is committed with the use of a firearm or other weapon, it may constitute armed robbery, which often results in a more severe penalty. It should be noted that robbery is often confused with burglary, which is defined as the breaking in and entering of a structure, with the purpose to commit a crime within the premises.

As mentioned, each state has different criminal laws and penal codes in defining the elements of a robbery charge. However, the general elements of proof for robbery consists of:

  • The taking and carrying away;
  • Of the personal property of another;
  • From their possession or in their presence;
  • Against their will; and
  • By force, fear, violence, intimidation or threat of force.

To be found guilty of robbery, all of these elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court of law. If any element can’t be proven, the person might not be convicted of robbery.

How is Larceny Defined?

Felony larceny is another specific type of felony theft crime besides robbery. In most jurisdictions, larceny may be defined as the “unlawful taking and carrying away of the property of another person, with the intent to permanently deprive them of its use.” Therefore, larceny charges are very similar to robbery charges.

Larceny is usually categorized as a misdemeanor charge. However, larceny crimes can lead to felony charges in some jurisdictions if the property stolen is above a certain amount (usually valued in the thousands of dollars). Felony larceny is sometimes called grand theft

What is the Difference Between Robbery vs. Larceny Charges?

Robbery and larceny may both be categorized as theft crimes. However, they are very different from one another in many respects. 

First, 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 then 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 crimes is that robbery involves the use of force, whereas larceny doesn’t. This makes larceny a lesser-included crime.  As such, robbery is prosecuted as a more serious crime than larceny, and usually involves more serious criminal penalties. 

What is an Example of a Lesser-Included Crime?

An example of a lesser-included crime within a greater crime is that of larceny and robbery. Larceny is defined as 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 through the use of force, intimidation, or threat of violence. Thus, a person will commit larceny if they commit robbery. However, they will likely only be charged with robbery because it was the more serious crime. 

In addition, if a person only committed larceny, then it would be impossible for them to be also charged of robbery. 

How Does Sentencing Different for Robbery vs. Larceny?

Robbery is classified as a felony charge, which involves more serious legal penalties such as criminal fines, and a sentence in prison for one year or longer.  In contrast, larceny is categorized as a misdemeanor crime, which involves lower criminal fines (unless the amount stolen is significant enough to be charged as a felony). 

Also, misdemeanors are punishable by a sentence of one year maximum in a county jail facility, rather than a state prison facility. Generally speaking, felony charges such as robbery are more difficult to have removed from one’s criminal record later on.

Can Robbery and Larceny Charges be Merged?

Because robbery and larceny are so similar and are closely related to one another, they may often be subject to the doctrine of merger in criminal sentencing.  Merger may occur when the defendant is charged with two different 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 victim.

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

Merger laws will be very different from state to state. The judge in such criminal trials often has much discretion when it comes to the decision of whether or not to merge charges. Mergers will mostly depend on the facts in each individual situation, as well as the background of the criminal defendant in the case (for instance, if they have a history of theft charges on their record) .

Are There Any Legal Defenses that Apply to Robbery or Larceny?

There may be various legal defenses available to theft charges, depending on the circumstances as well as state laws. For instance, mistake is a common defense for larceny. If the defendant believed that the property was theirs at the time they took it, it may serve as a defense.  Other defenses may be available for larceny charges, such as intoxication, coercion, or consent (the defendant had permission to take the item).

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

Are the Criminal Penalties Different for Robbery vs. Larceny?

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

In comparison, robbery is often 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 to commit the crime can result in increased penalties.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help With Robbery or Larceny Charges?

Robbery or larceny charges can lead to serious criminal penalties. If you are facing charges for robbery and/or larceny, and have any questions, concerns, or issues, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A lawyer in your area can provide you with expert legal advice and guidance, and will be able to represent you during formal court hearings.