The crime of robbery is a felony offense and is considered much more severe than misdemeanor crimes such as disorderly conduct and public intoxication. Robbery is also defined as larceny or the taking of the property that belongs to another person through the use of force or threat of force.
The Elements of Robbery
In order to obtain a criminal conviction for the crime of robbery, four primary elements of crime must be proven:
- The robber intended to deprive the owner of the property
- The robber used force or a threat of force to deprive the owner of the property
- The robber successfully deprived the owner of the property
- The actions of the robber were without the permission of the property owner
Any threat or use of force by the robber must be directly related to the act of the robbery. The threat must be one which places the robbery victim in imminent danger. If even one of these elements is not present, there is no conviction for a crime of robbery. For example, if a criminal swipes a mobile phone out of the pocket of an unsuspecting person, no crime of robbery has occurred even though there might be reason for a theft or larceny charge.
When the severity of a robbery crime rises to a high level, the crime becomes “aggravated robbery” – a more serious criminal charge. Some factors that “aggravate” the level of the crime include (i) the use of a deadly weapon during the commission of the robbery, and/or (ii) actually causing serious harm to the victim.
The most common “deadly weapons” that are used in robbery crimes are firearms and knives. But even if a deadly weapon is not used while carrying out the crime, any act which causes “grievous bodily harm” or significant personal injury to the victim could warrant an aggravated robbery charge. Criminal law in the state of Texas mandates that an aggravated robbery charge is warranted in the event any disabled person or other person over the age of 65 is injured in the commission of the crime.
Robbery v. Burglary
Many people confuse the crimes of robbery and burglary. Burglary occurs when a person enters into a structure (such as a home) without the permission of the owner in order to commit a crime (usually theft.) Burglary does not require the presence or knowledge of the owner of stolen property. Robbery is a theft that occurs in the presence of the owner of the property and with the use of force or threat of force. The use of threat or force is what usually makes robbery a more serious offense than burglary and results in a harsher punishment and sentence.
Punishment and Sentencing for Felony Robbery
Since robbery is qualified as a felony crime, punishment can result in greater than one year in prison. The sentencing guidelines for felony robbery vary from state to state. Robbery is a Class 2 felony under Illinois state law and punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison. Aggravated robbery in Illinois is a Class 1 felony and punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
A misdemeanor or lesser crime such as petty larceny is punishable by less than one year in prison. In New York State, a petit larceny charge for theft is punishable by up to one year in prison, including fines and court costs.
In most instances, a robbery conviction will include prison time but the length of the sentence will usually depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the criminal history of the convicted defendant. In the case of an aggravated robbery, sentencing is much more severe. Having adequate legal representation is critical, whether that means using a public defender or having an experienced criminal lawyer.