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Robbery vs. Theft in Florida

Was it as easy as taking candy from a baby? Perhaps it was close. A Lauderhill teenager is accused of robbery after taking an iPad from a 4-year-old boy who was using the device to watch cartoons at a salon where the boy’s mother worked. The teen was arrested a few days following the incident after police received a number of tips from citizens who observed surveillance footage and were able to identify the teen.

Some may mistakenly believe that theft and robbery are synonymous and that, therefore, the penalties must be similar. This is not necessarily the case, however. Depending on the value of the property taken, a charge of robbery can carry much more serious penalties.

How Do Robbery and Theft Differ?

Generally speaking, theft is the taking or use of another’s property with an intention to deprive the owner of the right to the property or the benefit of the property either permanently or temporarily. Theft also occurs when property is appropriated for the perpetrator’s use or the use of someone else who is not entitled to use the property. (So it is still theft, for example, if a car is taken from a person’s driveway and the thief gives the car to his significant other as a “gift.”)

Depending on what was taken and/or the value of the property taken, theft can be either a misdemeanor or felony (“grand theft”). No details about the stolen iPad were available, but assuming that the iPad was less than $300 in value, the perpetrator could have been charged with first degree petty theft. If convicted he would have faced 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

So why was this teenager charged with robbery instead of theft? Robbery is a theft that is accomplished by force, violence, assault, or putting the victim in fear. In this case, because the teenager wrestled the iPad away from the young boy, there was evidence that “force” or “violence” was used in the commission of the crime.

A “strong arm” robbery – one in which no weapon is used – is a second degree felony. This can be punished by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Why a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney is Important

Assume for a moment that the teenager was actually 18 years old and faced the fines and penalties listed above. Without legal counsel and without fully understanding the nature of the charges, he or she might plead to robbery mistakenly believing that it would be punished similarly to theft. A Florida criminal defense attorney like Jeffrey S. Weiner would not only be able to ensure a person in this position understood the nature of the charges, but could attack the government’s case, possibly resulting in a reduction of the charges or an acquittal. For example, if the prosecution failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal defendant did not intend to deprive the owner of the property of the right to or benefit of the property, or that the taking was accomplished by force, violence, assault, or by placing the victim in fear, the defendant could not be found guilty of robbery.

Before you plead to theft or robbery charges, contact Jeffrey S. Weiner by calling (305) 670-9919 to discuss your case and defenses that may be available.

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