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Robbery Crimes in New York State: Forcible Theft Versus Forcible Retention

There are three degrees of Robbery in New York State all of which are felony crimes. Third Degree Robbery, New York Penal Law 160.05, Second Degree Robbery, New York Penal Law 160.10 and First Degree Robbery, New York Penal Law 160.15. Each of these crimes, ranging from Third to First Degree, have potential sentences of up to seven, fifteen and twenty five years respectively. Not only is an arrest quite severe, but a punishment and sentence for the latter two offenses, NY PL 160.10 and NY PL 160.15, also have mandatory minimums of 3.5 and 5 years from the lesser crime to the more serious. Without addressing the numerous differences between the crimes, you can discuss how a Second Degree Robbery differs from a First Degree Robbery with your own criminal defense lawyer, there are some important factors that distinguish these felonies. While briefly address the elements of these crimes, this blog entry will address a specific characteristic of any Robbery arrest in New York and one that is addressed in the Jury Instructions for NY Penal Law Article 160.

Briefly, a Robbery, regardless of the degree, is a forcible stealing. What enhances the crime and penalty is whether or not, for example, you displayed or in fact possessed a firearm, you were accompanied by another person or someone other than a participant sustained a serious physical injury. Not exhaustive of the subsections and nuances of New York Penal Law Article 160 crimes nor the multiple subsections relevant to each degree, a critical factor that differentiates a mere non-violent theft from a potentially violent Robbery offense is the “forcible stealing” as referenced above.

Simply stated, you, an accused, forcibly steal property when during the commission of a larceny crime and theft you actually use or threaten to use of physical force with a particular intent. These objectives can include compelling the owner or rightful possessor of the property to give it to you but it also can involve something else. The New York State Jury Instructions for New York Penal Law Article 160 also address situations where it is not a taking that is forcible, but a retention of property you now have in your possession. That’s if you threaten the immediate use of physical force with the goal of preventing or overcoming resistance to the retention of the property, then you have committed a Robbery assuming your actions satisfied all the other elements of the crime.

Applying the law to a hypothetical set of circumstances, let’s say you shoplifted and walked out of Century 21 in downtown Manhattan or Macys in Midtown New York City. Regardless of the value of the shirt, tie, pants or other item, your mere unlawful taking is either a Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny, but by no means a Robbery. If, however, you are stopped by store security who tries to get the property back and you punch him or her in the nose, brandish or pretend to possess a weapon, or all out brawl, now you are not forcibly stealing in the taking sense, but forcible stealing for the purposes of retention. What started off as a non-violent crime and potentially an relatively easy case to resolve is now quite a more serious felony of Robbery in the Third, Second or First Degree.

To better educate yourself about New York Robbery crimes, regardless of the degree, review Crotty Saland PC’s New York Robbery Information Page. Additional information about Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny offenses in New York, as well as other theft related crimes, is available through the links and throughout the websites and blogs listed below.

Crotty Saland PC is a New York City based criminal defense law practice representing clients throughout the City of New York as well as the Hudson Valley region including Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess Counties. Both founding criminal defense lawyers served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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