Criminal Law

What’s the Difference Between Theft and Robbery?

By Jessica Gillespie, Legal Researcher and Editor
The primary difference between theft (or larceny) and robbery is that one involves force.

The crimes of theft (sometimes known as “larceny”) and robbery both involve taking someone else’s money or property without permission. The main difference between the offenses is that robbery involves the use of force or intimidation. Because robbery involves force, it is usually considered a more serious crime than theft.

Typically, theft occurs when someone:

  • takes money or property without authorization
  • carries the property away, and
  • intends to keep the property permanently.

A robbery normally happens when someone takes money or property:

  • directly from another person
  • without consent
  • with the intent to keep it permanently
  • by the use of or the threat of force.

In most cases, robbery is a felony, while theft can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. In many states, whether someone is charged with misdemeanor or felony theft depends on the value of the stolen property. Theft and robbery convictions carry a range of potential punishments, which vary by state. To learn more about the laws and penalties in your area, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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