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What constitutes a robbery?

When you think of the term robbery, you probably think of guys in ski masks with guns holding up a bank and demanding suitcases full of cash. But, imagine a scenario where a young kid approaches a man in a subway station and, with a hand in his pocket that appears to have a weapon, the kid demands that the man turn over his wallet and cellphone; fearful that the kid has a weapon, the man complies, and the kid runs off with his belongings. Although slightly different than the team of masked men storming the bank and making off with thousands of dollars, this scenario would also be considered a robbery under the law of most states.

So, what exactly qualifies as a robbery? The short answer is that it varies state to state, and each state's penal code may define robbery in different ways. However, there are some common elements that generally make up the crime of robbery. Robbery involves the use of physical force or fear against an identifiable victim. The general elements of a robbery include: (1) taking, with an intent to steal, (2) the personal property of another, (3) from their person or presence, (4) against their will, (5) by violence, intimidation or threat of force. Thus, robbery is a theft accomplished through violence.

The offense of robbery may become elevated to an aggravated offense if the victim suffers an injury, or it may be elevated to an armed robbery if it was accomplished using a firearm or another type of weapon.

There are also numerous potential defenses to robbery crimes, including challenging the elements of the offense, potential alibi defenses, duress, and others. It is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a robbery or other theft related offense to determine any potential defenses.

Source: FindLaw, "Robbery Overview," accessed April 17, 2018

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