man stealing in a department store

Difference Between Theft & Robbery

When you take someone else’s property unlawfully, you will probably be charged with some form of theft or robbery. Although the crimes sound similar, there are noticeable differences between the two, and those differences matter. What’s the main difference between theft and robbery? Theft is stealing property, and robbery is stealing property with force or intimidation.

Examples of Theft

Theft is a more general legal term for the criminal act of taking someone else’s property without their permission. Oftentimes, victims of theft don’t even know the crime has taken place until well afterward. Theft can take many forms, like shoplifting from a store or hotwiring a car and taking it out of an empty lot. Stealing services from a service provider or vendor is also theft, such as riding a public bus and leaving before paying.

White-collar crimes like embezzlement and financial fraud are also types of theft. They involve taking someone else’s property or finances in an unlawful, deceitful way. Importantly, none of the crimes mentioned so far involve violence or the threat of it.

Examples of Robbery

A theft crime will escalate to robbery once violence, intimidation, or threats are introduced into the process of taking another person’s property. For example, pointing a gun at a cashier and demanding the money in the register is armed robbery in many states. Or physically attacking someone to take their purse or wallet while they walk down the street is aggravated robbery and assault.

Once violence becomes involved or the victim can reasonably assume violence will follow if they don’t comply, a theft crime becomes a robbery crime. As such, robbery charges are usually much more severe and bring heavier penalties than theft charges.

Have questions about theft and robbery charges? Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners assists and represents clients in criminal defense cases throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Contact us now.

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