If you face robbery charges, you may wonder what, exactly, the crime of robbery entails. Though most people use the terms “theft,” “burglary” and “robbery” interchangeably, the truth is that these three crimes have differing legal definitions.
Robbery, in the most basic sense, refers to theft you accomplish through violence or the threat of it. Robbery differs from theft and burglary in that the latter two typically do not involve victims who sustained injuries or the threat of bodily harm. States commonly refer to robbery in varying degrees and based on the severity of the crime.
Elements of robbery
In most cases, robbery carries harsher penalties than theft or burglary, which is why it is imperative that you understand the elements of the crime if you face robbery charges. Though each state defines the crime differently, each definition contains the same basic elements. FindLaw explains the elements of robbery in brief:
- Taking the property of others
- Acting with the intent to steal
- Taking property directly off another’s person or in another’s presence
- Taking against the possessor’s will
- Acting violently or threateningly
At the core of every robbery definition, however, is force or the threat of it.
Degree of force and timing
Most states consider theft robbery no matter how slight the degree of force or intimidation was. For instance, you are just as likely to face robbery charges if you, as a large male, frightened an elderly lady into giving you her purse simply by putting your hand out as you are if you were to hold her at gunpoint. However, to be fair, the law does classify robbery into degrees based on the severity of the crime. For example, in the first scenario, the state may charge you with second-degree robbery. In the second, it may charge you with aggravated first-degree robbery.
Timing affects theft charges as well. If you used force while committing theft, robbery exists. However, if you used force only while fleeing the scene, a jury may determine that robbery did not take place.