difference of robbery and theft

Theft vs. Robbery: Understanding the Legal Distinctions and Implications in Greensboro

In Criminal by Greensboro Attorney

Theft and robbery are two words that are often interchanged, such that many assume they are the same. The confusion is understandable as both crimes involve taking another person’s property or possessions. Although these crimes have overlapping characteristics, the North Carolina law interprets them differently and, as such, bears varying charges. If you’ve been charged with either theft or robbery in Greensboro, it is crucial to know the difference in building a solid defense against these charges. It also pays to know the legal consequences when you’ve been convicted of these crimes.

What Are Theft Crimes?

Theft, also known as larceny, is a broad criminal term that refers to a criminal offense. It can be defined as either one of the following: 

  • Stealing another person’s money or property without the former’s permission;
  • Taking the property away, whether or not there was intent to return it;
  • Taking the property with the intent to possess it permanently.

While stealing another’s property or money constitutes a theft crime, it can also refer to stealing non-physical properties, such as one’s identity or services. Common examples of theft crimes that do not involve an item include fraud or embezzlement. 

Shoplifting is a theft crime.

Theft Charges in NC

Theft or larceny charges in NC are detailed in the section for crimes against property. A person committing such a crime is charged with the assumption that force or violence was used to gain possession of the property in question, which can be money or personal items of value (such as jewelry). The North Carolina law assumes that the guilty party takes that property with the intent of not returning it to the owner.

As per North Carolina law, larceny or theft in NC worth $1,000 or above is identified as a Class 1 misdemeanor charge. If the property is worth more than $1,000, the charge is escalated to a Class H Felony. In addition, a person who has had four convictions for a similar crime will be charged with a class H felony, even if the property is valued below $1,000. 

Here, the legal distinctions in North Carolina law involving theft charges become more complicated when they involve receiving stolen goods. The person who is in possession or who has received stolen goods is charged with a Class H felony if it is proven they are aware that the said property was stolen or obtained in an unlawful manner. The law also defines “possession” of stolen goods as something beyond physical, meaning that even if the item is in your home or car, you could still be charged with theft or larceny in Greensboro, NC.

There are other sub-classifications of the theft charges in North Carolina law, depending on the type and nature of the theft crimes. These crimes include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Concealment of merchandise for the purpose of shoplifting – Class 3 misdemeanor;
  • Shoplifting or theft from a merchant – Class H felony;
  • Employee theft – Class H felony if the value of goods is above $100,000; otherwise, it is a Class C felony;
  • Chop shop activity or altering or modifying a motor vehicle – Class G felony;
  • Theft of motor vehicle parts – Class I felony. 

Theft crimes can also cover other forms of theft, such as credit card transaction theft or identity theft. These crimes are referred to as white-collar criminal charges.

What Are Robbery Crimes?

Robbery is a crime that involves taking another person’s property or money. However, it differs from theft or larceny because this crime involves using force or intimidation to obtain possession of said property. 

The following are common elements present in a robbery crime to help distinguish it from a theft crime:

  • Stealing a property with the intent to keep it permanently;
  • Stealing a property without the owner’s consent;
  • Using force, intimidation or a dangerous weapon to gain possession of the stolen property;
  • Committing the crime in the presence of the victim or property owner.

Common examples of robbery crimes are purse snatching and carjacking. The victim does not necessarily have to be the property owner for the robbery crime to occur; the owner could assign them responsibility. 

Man charged with robbery in NC.


Robbery Charges in North Carolina

Robbery charges in North Carolina carry stiff penalties. If you’ve been arrested for robbery charges, expect serious felony charges for it. The specific nature of the crime will determine the exact charge and possible penalties that the offender faces for committing the crime.

Robbery crimes that possess the elements mentioned above, such as using force or intimidation and taking the property in the presence of the victim, make it a class G felony. However, the charge is elevated to a class D felony if there is a dangerous weapon involved. Anyone who aids the person committing the robbery is also charged with a class D felony, even if they are not within the vicinity during the crime. 

The penalties for robbery charges in North Carolina include a maximum prison sentence of 47 months or up to 204 months for armed robbery charges. Meanwhile, a habitual offender could face enhanced punishment of 120 months in prison sentence and a class C felony charge. 

Therefore, it is crucial to know the specific nature of the crime as it can directly impact the sentence you’ll face for these charges. 

What to Do When Charged with Theft or Robbery

If you or someone you know is charged with theft or robbery, you must speak with an experienced theft attorney in Greensboro, NC, immediately. 

Most theft and robbery crimes are considered a felony in the state, which could carry significant penalties. A lawyer well-versed in these crimes can help build a good defense strategy to preserve the defendant’s rights, especially if they are not guilty of committing such crimes. The sooner you take action, the better you can protect the life and future of the affected individuals, especially as anyone with a robbery charge on their record could have their employment opportunities derailed.