Robbery is a term that is often used in television shows, movies and books about crimes. However, the actual definition of “Robbery” is often misunderstood.

What is the legal definition of Robbery?

“Robbery” is defined in NRS 200.380:

  1. Robbery is the unlawful taking of personal property from the person of another, or in the person’s presence, against his or her will, by means of force or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his or her person or property, or the person or property of a member of his or her family, or of anyone in his or her company at the time of the robbery. A taking is by means of force or fear if force or fear is used to:
    1. Obtain or retain possession of the property;
    2. Prevent or overcome resistance to the taking; or
    3. Facilitate escape.
  2. The degree of force used is immaterial if it is used to compel acquiescence to the taking of or escaping with the property. A taking constitutes robbery whenever it appears that, although the taking was fully completed without the knowledge of the person from whom taken, such knowledge was prevented by the use of force or fear.
  3. A person who commits robbery is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years.

What is hard to understand about that?

Nothing, really, except that most people do not realize that “Robbery” requires the “use of force,” or the “threat of force.” Where “robbery” is often associated with theft of any kind, it only applies when such a “use of force” can be shown. However, it is important to note that there is no requirement on the amount of force used. Larceny, on the other hand, refers to theft that does not require a use of force. An example is often helpful to show the difference:

  • If a woman has her purse stolen from her while she is holding it, then the crime would be robbery. Even if the purse-snatcher used very little actual force and instead relied on the element of surprise, the crime would be robbery because there was an element of force used.
  • If that same woman is threatened with physical violence or harm, and hands her purse over willingly in order to avoid the violence or harm, that would also be robbery because the accused used the “threat of force” in place of actual force.
  • If that same woman instead set her purse down next to her and the purse-snatcher stole it while the woman was not looking, the crime would be larceny because no force was used to obtain possession of the purse from the woman.

Please Note: One important thing to note about the use of force and threat of force. If the force being used or threatened is toward a family member or someone who is with you at the time of the crime, then robbery still applies. In other words, if the woman from the example above were to hand over her purse to avoid physical violence or harm to her friend who was with her, then “robbery” would still apply.

The easiest way to differentiate between robbery and larceny is to ask yourself if the victim is aware of the theft at the time it happens? If so, then it is probably robbery; if not, then it is more likely larceny.

If someone is held up at gunpoint, then it is robbery?

Yes. However, that will probably deserve the greater charge of “Robbery with a deadly weapon.”

So, “Robbery” is a different crime than “Robbery with a deadly weapon”?

Technically, no. Robbery with a deadly weapon is essentially just robbery with the enhancement penalties associated with “use of a deadly weapon.” For a more in-depth look at the “use of a deadly weapon” enhancement, please click here.

What are the possible penalties?

Robbery is a category B felony in Nevada, and carries with it:

  • Between 2 and 15 years in a Nevada State Prison.

If the robbery was done with the use of a deadly weapon, then the judge is required to add an additional sentence of:

  • Between 1 and 20 years in a Nevada State Prison.

Please Note: There are two important things to note about the enhancement penalty. First, it cannot be run concurrently with the original sentence. In other words, you will have to serve your sentence for the underlying robbery and then you will have to serve whatever sentence is imposed for using a deadly weapon. Second, the enhancement penalty cannot be longer than the underlying sentence. In other words, you cannot be sentenced to 2 years for the robbery and 20 years for using a deadly weapon.

Are there any Defenses?

There are always defenses that might apply to your case. For “robbery” charges, those defenses include:

  • False allegations/Mistaken Identity – Robbery charges can often be false. As is often the case on television and in the movies, robbers routinely cover or conceal their faces so as to not be easily identified. If there is not enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused committed the crime, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.

Is that all?

There are partial defenses to Robbery charges which may lead to the charges being lessened. For example:

  • No Force – As noted above, Robbery can only exist if there is theft by use of force or threat of force. If the prosecution cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was no force used, or that there was no threat of force used, then the robbery charges should be dropped or dismissed. However, if there was still a theft involved, then the prosecution will likely seek to charge you with larceny.
  • No Theft – As already noted, Robbery is a theft crime. If the prosecution cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was an actual theft involved, then the robbery charges should be dropped or dismissed. However, if there was force used or a threat of force, then the prosecution may seek to charge you with assault (if there was any physical contact) or battery (if there was only a threat of force).

What should I do if I’ve been charged with Robbery?

As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.

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