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Theft vs. robbery: what you need to know for a reduced sentence

A significant percentage of Americans confuse theft and robbery. Many believe that these two terms refer to the same thing. For example, after a homeowner finds his or her window broken into and electronics missing, he or she might think "I’ve been robbed." The situation is often confusing for any non-legal professional since he or she may consider these two terms to be interchangeable. However, this is not the case in the eyes of the law.

What is theft?

According to the lawyers, attorneys and other legal experts, there is a significant difference between robbery and theft. Interestingly, some states refer to theft as "larceny." The general population uses theft as a general term to refer to several crimes that involve taking someone else’s property without their permission or knowledge.

Apart from this defining trait, other elements of theft include:

  1. Taking property away from the original owner.
  2. Intending to keep the property permanently for their use or profit.

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Most people believe theft to be the stealing of an item that belongs to another person. However, there are other forms of theft as well, some examples include:

  1. Placing a lower price tag on a high-priced item at the store without the knowledge of the storekeeper and staff.
  2. Using someone else’s phone or electricity services and not paying for them.
  3. Using public transportation and not paying for the services.
  4. Using the services of an establishment, like a restaurant or motel, and not paying.
  5. Stealing someone’s identity and using their credit cards, and driver’s license.

What constitutes robbery?

On the other hand, most lawyers define robbery as the act of using the threat of force to take someone else’s property from them. Therefore, an act only qualifies as a robbery if each of the following apply:

  1. The person in question has stolen someone else’s property without their permission.
  2. He or she has taken the item without any intention of returning it.
  3. He or she has used or threatened to use force to commit the act.
  4. The threat can be verbal, the use of a gun, knife or anything else that can be used as a weapon.

What is the difference between theft and robbery?

The significant difference between theft and robbery is the presence of the victim. For theft, the original owner does not have to be present during the act. For example – a woman forgets her purse at a store. Another man picks it up without any intention of returning it. This act qualifies as theft, but it is not robbery. However, for an act to be robbery, the owner of the item or property needs to be present during the incident. For example – a person threatening another on the road so he or she can get the victim's money.

What are the penalties of theft and robbery?

The penalties of theft and robbery are different. Theft penalties vary between misdemeanor and felony, depending on the value of the stolen item. Robbery attracts serious sentences since the perpetrator threatens the victim with force. The court is more likely to punish a robber with a felony conviction than a thief.

If you find yourself in possession of an item that does not belong to you, you should contact an expert criminal defense attorney immediately. Your ability to prepare beforehand can change the outcome of a court's decision entirely.

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