Theft and robbery are related but they don’t mean the same thing, and both can be charged by varying degrees. If someone breaks into an electronics store and steals equipment without anyone noticing, then it is theft. But if they used a weapon then it is robbery. While both involve taking someone else’s property, when force or intimidated is used to coerce or take the property then it becomes robbery.
Theft, also called larceny, is the deliberate taking or keeping of property without the intent of returning it to the owner(s). It runs the gamut from stealing cash tips left on a table to embezzlement to stealing utilities, such as cable services. Identity theft and fraud are constant concerns for people, while shoplifting is a major threat to companies. When a borrower uses lies or deception to ask a lender for property or to solicit their service seemingly with the intention of returning it or paying for it, but in fact does not, then that is also considered theft. However, a victim does not need to be present during the crime.
Felonies and Misdemeanors
According to state law, theft is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony. If the value of the stolen property is $500 or less, then that punishment will carry a fine and up to 12 months of jail time. If the value is more than $500 then the crime may be considered a felony.
The type of theft can affect whether or not a crime is punishable as a felony. These include stealing firearms or explosives and committing theft via telemarketing or using a computer.
Two defining features that separate robbery from theft are the use of force and the presence of the owner, or victim. In order for a circumstance to be considered a robbery, something must be taken from a person or in their presence, such as when a store clerk is tied up and held in a back room. Robbery comes with a one-year minimum sentence with a maximum of up to 20 years.
What If I Didn’t Have a Weapon?
“Use of force” does not necessarily mean having a gun or a knife. According to Georgia code O.C.G.A. 16-8-40 threats, intimidation, or inciting fear of bodily injury in someone or others in order to coerce them are all considered forms of force. Therefore it does not matter if a toy gun or knife was used, for example, because it is considered a very serious threat to one’s safety if they are under the impression that it is a loaded gun. Threatening violence to someone who is not the owner but is in control of the possessions, such as a store clerk, is considered coercion. Snatching items away from victims, such as a purse, is also considered forceful.
Factors that can increase penalties under Georgia law are a prior criminal record, robbery of a pharmacy including hospitals and warehouses, and committing robbery against a person age 65 or older (which can increase jail time between 5-20 years). How violent the robbery was will also be heavily considered.
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony then you will want an attorney who is knowledgeable and maintains high ethical standards, such as the ones you will find at Cobb County Attorneys.