Understanding the Difference Between Robbery and Theft

Man Mugging Woman In Street

Robbery is a theft of money or personal property committed by force or threat of force. The key difference between robbery and theft is the use of some kind of force or the cause of some serious harm in taking the property from someone. The degree of force will determine the severity of the charge. Generally, the crime of robbery constitutes a third degree felony. However, if during the commission of the crime, the accused causes bodily injury to another person, the charge will be a second degree felony. If the accused seriously injures another person or puts them in fear of serious bodily injury, the crime constitutes a first degree felony. Also, if the accused commits a robbery of a motor vehicle while another person was in lawful possession of the vehicle, this is also a first degree felony.

Theft and Robbery are separate offenses and are normally charged together. Theft is taking the property of another without force. Theft from a store such as shoplifting is also called Retail Theft. Both Retail Theft and Theft are graded based on the value of the property stolen and whether the accused has any prior theft convictions. Theft offenses are graded as follows: If the value of the property is $500,000.00 or more, the charge is a first degree felony. If the value of the property is at least $100,000.00 but less than $500,000.00, the charge is a second degree felony. If the value of the property exceeds $2,000.00 but less than $100,000.00, then the theft charge is graded as a third degree felony. If the value of the property was at least $200.00 but equal to or less than $2,000.00, then the theft charge is graded as a first degree misdemeanor. If the value of the property was at least $50.00 but less than $200.00, then the theft charge is a second degree misdemeanor. If the value of the property was less than $50.00, then the theft charge is a third degree misdemeanor. The reason the grading is important is because it determines the number of years of incarceration the accused will serve if found guilty. The maximum penalty for a felony, misdemeanor and summary offenses are as follows:

Felony 1st Degree 20 years in prison
Felony 2nd Degree 10 years in prison
Felony 3rd Degree 7 years in prison
Misdemeanor 1st Degree 5 years in prison
Misdemeanor 2nd Degree 2 years in prison
Misdemeanor 3rd Degree 1 year in prison
Summary Offense 90 days in county jail

There are several defenses to Robbery such as:

  1. No theft was committed. Since robbery is a theft by force, if there is no theft committed, there is no robbery. Examples of actions that may be confused with theft include reclaiming property you own, or taking property that you believed to be your own.
  2. No injury occurred or the victim was not placed in fear of injury. However, in most cases, merely being in fear of injury is sufficient for the prosecution to prove the element of force in a robbery charge.
  3. Intoxication, Entrapment, Duress. These three defenses can be used in many different criminal actions including robbery and theft. All three defenses try to show that a defendant is not guilty, even though the crime was committed.

If you are charged with Robbery or Theft contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604, of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

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