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Most states describe robbery as theft/larceny of property or money through the offender’s use of physical force or fear against a victim. Where a deadly weapon like a gun is used or the victim experiences injury, the robbery might be charged as “armed” or “aggravated.” Unlike burglary, the crime of robbery, roughly at all times, needs the presence of a victim who experiences real injury or is intimidated with harm.

For instance, a man moves toward another man from behind, requesting his wallet while forcing a hard object down into his back. Afraid that the man has a gun, the other man surrenders his wallet. If the man did use a gun, or if the other man experienced an injury, the charge would possibly be increased to “armed” or “aggravated” robbery.

United States law concerning robbery has its pedigree in the common law that Americans received from the English legal system. While many states have collated their robbery laws in their penal codes, without such a statute, the common law definition would still be relevant.

The Elements of Robbery

The penal codes of every state describe robbery in various ways, but the definitions include the same fundamental elements. Robbery normally includes the following:

  • The taking, with the intent to steal, of.
  • The personal property of another.
  • From his or her person or in their presence.
  • Against his or her will.
  • By violence, intimidation or the threat of force.

Basically, robbery is theft achieved by violence or the threat of violence. Because this element of force is placed at the heart of robbery, a very important question in a robbery prosecution involves the timing of violence. If, for instance, the violence just happens as the robber tries to flee from the found scene of a theft, the charges brought may consist of larceny and resisting arrest, but not necessarily robbery.

The use or threat of force can additionally be minor, and the amount necessary to transform a theft into a robbery relies on the parties concerned and the circumstances. If a minute quantity of violence or intimidation is sufficient to force the victim to hand over their property based on the personalities of the victim and assailant, then a robbery has happened.

While the thief does not have to use a lot of force in order to perpetrate a robbery, a specific quantity is still needed. Purse snatching, for example, need some struggle by the victim prior to the theft increasing to the level of a robbery. If the robber can confiscate the purse without any force beyond what is needed to just steal the purse off the victim, then a jury might decide that no robbery has occurred.

State Laws on Robbery: Degrees of Severity

States normally divide robbery into different degrees based on the severity of the crime. Ordinary robbery is typically a second degree felony in many states, but can become a first degree felony if the robber uses a dangerous weapon, tries to kill anyone, or imposes or tries to impose grave physical harm. A few states term this last type of robber as aggravated robbery.

Carroll Troberman, PLLC has the expertise you need to get your charges reduced or even dropped. Call us today to set up a consultation.