Robbery is punished so harshly across the United States because it is considered not only a property crime, but an interpersonal, violent crime. Most definitions of robbery require that force or threats are used to steal property, making the crime more serious than regular theft. New Jersey’s definition is very specific about what it includes as “robbery.” If you are being charged with robbery, it is important to understand what exactly you are being charged with, and how your case might move forward.
The criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych understand criminal law in New Jersey and may be able to represent you on your case. Challenging the evidence, challenging the charges, and helping reduce your sentence are all part of the job of a South Jersey criminal defense attorney.
Definition of Robbery in Atlantic County, NJ
Robbery is sometimes considered “theft, plus” – as in theft, plus an extra element. New Jersey’s definition is no different. N.J.S.A. § 2C:15-1 defines robbery as when someone “in the course of committing a theft” does one of the following things:
- “Inflicts bodily injury or uses force” against someone else;
- “Threatens another with or” puts someone “in fear of immediate bodily injury”; or
- Threatens to commit or actually commits another first or second degree crime.
First and second degree crimes are the highest levels of crime in New Jersey, so committing a theft during one of these crimes adds an extra element that the law acts to punish. Bodily harm is similarly severe, so punishing theft alongside injury is not surprisingly just as serious.
The law states that these extra elements must be done “in the course of committing a crime.” § 2C-15-1 defines this term to include the time periods during the attempted crime as well as the flight immediately after committing a crime. In addition, the law explains that the extra elements of force, threat of injury, or commission of another crime can still hold even in an attempted robbery, as opposed to a completed robbery.
Since the definition references first and second degree crimes, it is important to understand what crimes fit into those categories. The following are all first or second degree crimes which could fit into a robbery charge:
- Some drug distribution charges
- Sexual assault
There are other first and second degree crimes that would qualify, too.
Are Theft and Robbery the Same Charge in Atlantic County?
The court system is confusing; there are different words and different terms that may seem foreign to you. Even more confusing for some, is that the terms that are used in the courthouse and the words that are used on the street can be vastly different. One example are the crimes of theft and robbery. While on the street these words are often used interchangeably, under the law, however, these words have completely different meanings. Under the New Jersey criminal code, theft and robbery have their own separate elements and are distinct crimes from each other. This means that a person may be independently charged with either theft or robbery, or they may be charged with both. Generally, robbery as defined by the New Jersey statutory code 2C:15-1 is charged in instances where the defendant causes injury, uses force, or makes threats to the victim during the course of theft.
By contrast, theft, as opposed to robbery, is much broader and simply means that the defendant unlawfully took some object from the victim. Notably, theft is not excluded to theft of physical items, but because it is a broad statute can include things such as theft of a service, or of a person’s identity.
Under 2C:20-3a of the New Jersey Code, if the alleged theft deals with movable property, such as a piece of clothing or electronic equipment for example, then the state must prove that the stolen object “was moved or taken from its original location,” and that the defendant’s intention was to “deprive the owner” of the property.
Identity theft according to 2C:21-17, requires that before a defendant can be found guilty the state must prove that he or she:
- Assumed a false identity for personal gain.
- Impersonated another person in order to receive a service or avoid paying for a service.
- Pretended to represent a person or organization in order to receive a service.
- Took and used someone else’s personal identifying information, without consent, for the sake of personal gain, avoiding a debt, or avoiding prosecution.
For a person to be charged and convicted or robbery according to the statutory definition set forth in 2C:15-1, the state will have to prove that, in the course of committing a theft, the defendant:
(1) Inflicted bodily injury or used force upon another; or
(2) Threatened another with or purposely put him in fear of immediate bodily injury, or
(3) Committed or threatened immediately to commit any crime of the first or second degree.
The first sentence of this statute requires that the state proves all of the elements of theft, which may be confusing, because as mentioned earlier these crimes are distinct. However, it is the force element of robbery that distinguishes it from theft.
The Penalties for a Robbery Conviction in Atlantic City
Robbery is itself a first or second degree crime. Most robberies are a second degree crime. This means, upon conviction, you can spend between five and 10 years in prison and face fines up to $150,000.
In some instances, robbery is upgraded to a first degree crime. First degree crimes mean sentences between 10 and 20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000 in prison. These are the highest level of crime in New Jersey, equal in severity to murder. The additional elements required to turn robbery into a first degree crime are:
- An attempted killing during the robbery;
- Infliction of “serious bodily injury”;
- Attempted infliction of “serious bodily injury”:
- Being armed with, using, or threatening to use a deadly weapon.
This means that armed robbery is a first degree crime, and so is any robbery that results in death.
These elements that increase the grading of the crime must still be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This gives an experienced defense attorney room to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and cast a reasonable double upon the government’s case.
Though the punishments for robbery are quite severe, a defense attorney may be able to help. First, an attorney can challenge the evidence the prosecution submits, making it more difficult to prove the case. This is based on technical, legal principles an experienced attorney can use. Second, the prosecution may not be up to the challenge of proving their case. This may give a defense attorney the opportunity to come to an arrangement that will reduce your sentence or reduce the charges in exchange for a plea. Third, if you are innocent of the crime or the government cannot prove their case, your attorney may be able to fight your case in open court in front of a judge and jury. Even if you are convicted, your attorney may still be able to argue that your sentence should be reduced to probation and keep you out of prison.
Our Atlantic City Robbery Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one has been charged with robbery, do not face the charges alone. Robbery charges are some of the most serious charges in New Jersey and could mean losing your freedom for many years. Call (609) 616-4956 today for a free consultation on your case. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have decades of experience protecting the rights of the accused and may be able to help you, too.