Robbery is a felonious act which encompasses the taking of the property of another from his or her person or in his or her immediate presence, against his or her will, by violence or intimidation.

Armed robbery is a serious crime and can permanently traumatize its victims, both physically and psychologically. It tends to receive considerable media attention when it occurs, and it carries longer prison terms than other forms of robbery such as simple robbery (i.e., theft without a dangerous weapon).

Armed robbery is typically motivated by the desire to obtain money, which is then often used to purchase drugs; however, some armed robbers engage in the crime with the intention of boosting their status within their peer group. Whatever the motivation, the act is classified as a violent crime, because armed robberies can result in injury and sometimes death to victims.

Robberies may occur on the street-where unsuspecting individuals are held up at gunpoint-or in a commercial establishment such as a convenience store or a bank. Several studies have determined that armed robbers prefer isolated locations with lone victims and reliable escape routes.

Robbery sentence in various legal systems

United States

Under current sentencing guidlines, the punishment for robbery is affected bya variety of aggravating and mitigating factors. Particularly important is how much harm was vaused to the victim and how much culpability the offender had (e.g. carrying a weapon or laeding a group effort implies high culpability).

Robbery is divided into three categories which are, in increasing order of seriousness: street or less sophisticated commercial; dwelling; and professionally planned commercial.

Robebry genmerally results in a custodial sentence. Only a low-culpability robbery with other mitigating factors would result in an alternative punishment, in the form of a high level community order. The maximum legal punishment is imprisonment for life. It is also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal justice Act 2003. Current sentencing guidlines advise that the sentence shoul be no longer than 20 years, for a high-harm, high-culpability robbery with other aggravating factors.

The “stating point” sentences are:

  1. Low-harm, low-culpability street robbery: 1 year
  2. Medium-harm, medium-culpability street robbery: 4 years
  3. Medium-harm, medium-culpability professionally planned robbery: 5 years
  4. High-harm, high-culpability street robbery: 8 years
  5. High-harm, high-culpability professionally planned robbery: 16 years imprisonment

An offender may also serve a longer sentence if they are convicted of other offences alongside the robbery, such as assault and grievous bodily harm.

On theft and larceny, in many states, theft or larceny can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the type of stolen property or its value. Misdemeanor thefts might be referred to as petty or petit theft and involve stolen property valued under $1,000 or $2,000. A person convicted of petty theft might face up to a year in jail or spend time on probation. Felony thefts-also called grand theft-involve any amount over the misdemeanor threshold. Grand theft can involve a wide range of sentences from a couple of years to a decade or more in prison. States vary considerable when it comes to theft penalties.

In most cases, robbery is a felony, and a conviction can result in significant prison time, especially if a weapon was involved (armed robbery). A person convicted of robbery could easily face a 10-to 30-years prison sentence.

Generally, sentencing laws also consider robbery a crime of violence. In some state, a crime of violence conviction impacts probation or parole eligibility, enhances charges for future crimes, or carries mandatory sentences.


In Canada, the Criminal Code makes robbery an indictable offence, subject to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. If the accused uses a restricted or prohibited firearm to commit robbery, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the first offence, and sentence years for subsequent offences.


Robbery is a statutory offence in the Republic of Ireland. It is created by Section 14(1) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001, which provides:

A person is guilty of robbery if he or she steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

England and Wales

Robbery is a statutory offence is provided by Section 36(3) Archieved 2017-05-01 at the Wayback Machine of that Act. It is created by Section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968 which includes:

A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

Aggravated theft

Robbery is the only offence of aggravated theft.

Aggravated robbery

There are no offences of aggravated robbery


This requires evidence to show a theft as set out in section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968. In R v Robinson the defendant threatened the victim with a knife in order to recover money which he was actually owed. His conviction for robbery was quashed on the basis that Robinson had an honest, although unreasonable, belief (under Section 2(1)(a) of the Act) in his legal right to the money. See also R v Skivington (1968) 1 QB 166, (1967) 2 WLR 655, 131 JP 265, 111 SJ 72, (1967) 1 ALL ER 483, 51 Cr App R 167, CA.

In R v Hale (1978) the application of force and the stealing took place in many different locations, and it was not possible to establish the timing; it was held that the appropriation necessary to prove theft was a continuing act, and the jury could correctly convict of robbery. This approach was followed in R v Lockley (1995) when the force was applied to a shopkeeper after property had been taken. It was argued that the theft should be regarded as complete by this time, and R v Gomez (1993), should apply; the court disagreed, preferring to follow R v Hale.

Actual or threatened force against a person

The threat or use of force must take place immediately before or at the time of the theft. Force used after the theft is complete will not turn the theft into a robbery. The word “or immediately after” that appeared in Section 23(1)(a) of the Larceny Act 1916 were deliberately omitted from section 8(1).
The book Archbold said that the facts in R v Harman, which did not amount to robbery in 1620, would not amount to robbery now.

It was held in R v Dawson and James (1978) that “force” is an ordinary English word and its meaning should be left to the jury. This approach was confirmed in R v Clouden (1985) and Corcoran v Anderton (1980), both handbag-snatching cases. Stealing may involve a young child who is not aware that taking other persons’ property is not in order.


The victim must be placed in apprehension or fear that force would be used immediately before or at the time of the taking of the property. A threat is not immediate if the wrongdoer threatens to use force of violence some future time. Robbery occurs if an aggressor forcibly snatched a mobile phone of if they used a knife to make an implied threat of violence to the holder and then took the phone.
The person being threatened does not need to be the owner of the property. It is not necessary that the victim was actually frightened, but the defendant must have put or sought to put the victim or some other person in fear of immediate force.

The force or threat may be directed against a third party, for example a customer in a jeweler’s shop. Theft accompanied by a threat to damage property will not constitute robbery, but it may disclose an offence of blackmail.
Dishonesty dealing with property stolen during a robbery will constitute an offence of handling.

Robbery history under common law

Robbery was an offence under the common law of England. Mathew Hale provided the following definition:

Robbery is the felonious and violent taking of any money or goods from the person of another, putting him in fear, be the value thereof above or under one shilling.

The common law offence of robbery was abolished for all purposes not relating to offences committed before 1 January 1969 by Section 32(1)(a) of the Theft Act 1968.


See Sections 40 to 43 of the Larceny Act 1861.
Section 23 of the Larceny Act 1916 read:

23-(1) Every person who-
(a) being armed with any offensive weapon or instrument, or being together with one other person or more, robs, or assaults with intent to rob, any person;
(b) robs any person and, at the time of or immediately before after such robbery, uses any personal violence to any person;

shall be guilty of felony and on conviction thereof liable to penal servitude for life, and, in addition, if a ,ale, to be once privately whipped.

(2) Every person who robs any person shall be guilty of felony and on conviction thereof liable to penal servitude for any term not exceeding fourteen years.
(3) Every person who assaults any person with intent to rob shall be guilty of felony and on conviction thereof liable to penal servitude for any term not exceeding five years.

This section provided maximum penalties for a number of offences of robbery and aggravated robbery.

Assault with intent to rob

If a robbery is foiled before it can be completed, an alternative offence (with the same penalty, given by section 8(2) of the 1968 Act) assault; any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another to fear the immediate and unlawful use of force, with an intent to rob, will suffice.

The following cases are relevant:

  1. R v trusty and Howard (1783) 1 East PC 418
  2. R v Sharwin (1785) 1 East PC 421

Mode of trial and sentence

Assault with intent to rob is an indictable-only offence. It is punishable with imprisonment for life or for any shorter term.
Assault with intent to rob is also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Northern Ireland

Robbery is a statutory offence in Northern Ireland. It is created by Section 8 of the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.

U.S legal system

In the United States, robbery is generally treated as an aggravated form of common law larceny. Specific elements and definitions differ from state to state. The common elements of robbery are:

  1. a trespassory
  2. taking and
  3. carrying away of the personal property of another with intent to steal from the person or presence of the victim
  4. by force or threat of force.

The first six are thesame as common law larceny. It is the last two elements that aggravate the crime to common law robbery.

From the person or presence of the victim – robbery requires that the property be taken directly from the person of the victim or from their presence. This is different from larceny which simply requires that property be taken from the victim’s possession, actual or consecutive. Property is ‘on the victim’s person’ if the victim is actually holding the property, or the property is contained within clothing the victim is wearing or is attached to a victim’s body such as wrist watch or earrings.

Property is in a person’s presence when it is within the area of their immediate control. The property has to be close to the victim’s person that the victim could have prevented its taking if he/she had not been placed in fear or intimidation.

By force or threat of force – the use of force or threat of force is the defining element of robbery. For there to be robbery there must be “force or fear” in perpetrating the theft. Questions concerning the degree of force necessary for robbery have been the subject of much litigation. Merely snatching the property from the victim’s person is not sufficient force unless the victim resists or one of the items is attached or carried in such a way that a significant amount of force must be used to free the item from the victim’s person.

For robbery the victim must be placed in “fear” of immediate harm by threat or intimidation. The threat need not be directed at the victim personally. Threats to third parties are sufficient. The threat must be one of present rather than future personal harm. Fear does not mean “fright”, it means apprehension-an awareness of the danger of immediate bodily harm.


The maximum sentence for robbery in California is 9 years, according to Penal Code Section 213(a)(1)(A).
The threat is use of force does not have to take place immediately before or at the time of the theft. Force used after the theft will turn the theft into a robbery unless the theft is complete. The theft is considered completed when the perpetrator reaches a place of temporary safety with the property.

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