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What is the Difference Between Theft and Robbery?


Terms like theft, larceny, shoplifting, and robbery all refer to the crime of taking something that does not belong to you, but they are very different if you look at the specific definitions. Many people lump them together, which creates confusion when comparing theft and robbery. Florida’s theft laws provide for two distinct offenses, and both of them could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor based upon the circumstances. The sentence for a conviction may include hefty fines and jail time, as well as paying restitution to the victim.

Because the penalties and collateral consequences can be harsh, you need to do all you can to defend theft or robbery charges. Retaining legal counsel is critical from the very earliest stages of the criminal process, because there are multiple opportunities to fight the allegations during the process. A Florida criminal defense lawyer can explain more about the charges you face, but some information on the differences between theft and robbery is important.

Theft Crimes in Florida: Under the statute, a person may be arrested for theft by taking or using someone else’s property with the intent to:

  1. Deprive the rightful owner of the property of any benefit or use from it; OR
  2. Appropriate the property for the defendant’s own use or use by someone who is not entitled to it. 

The key with theft crimes is that the value of the property is how the crime is charged. Stealing $100 or less could lead to a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. When the value of the stolen property is $100,000 or more, you could face up to 30 years in prison.

Robbery is a Serious Theft Crime: The definition of robbery starts with the same language described above, but there is an added element. When a defendant uses force, violence, or threats, the crime becomes robbery. If there is no firearm or weapon involved, it is charged as a Second Degree Felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Robbery is a First Degree Felony if the defendant uses a gun or weapon, and a judge could sentence up to the maximum of 30 years’ incarceration.

 Defense Strategies: Some common defenses in theft crimes include lack of intent, claim of right that the property is yours, and mistake. However, for lower level theft offenses by first-time offenders, it is often possible to resolve the charges without jail time. Florida allows pretrial diversion for some theft offenses, in which the case is dismissed if you complete all terms set by the court.

Consult with a South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney About Strategy

If you were arrested for theft or robbery charges, you need experienced representation right away. Our team at Linkhorst Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout Palm Beach County in a wide range of criminal matters, so we are prepared to defend the allegations. Please contact us at 561-626-8880 or go online today to schedule a consultation.

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