Robbery and Theft Offense Case Study
A 32 yr old Newark man was charged with Robbery after he stole a bottle of booz from a liquor store and threatened the store employees with a hypodermic needle during the commission of the offense. It was reported that the store employees had detained the suspect briefly and were waiting for police to arrive. The suspect then threatened them with the needle and ran out of the store empty handed.
This raises some interesting questions. When does a theft become a robbery, and what determines the degree of the offense? Theft offenses are easily distinguishable from the crime of robbery. Theft is a crime against property, and robbery is a crime against the person during the course of a theft. Accordingly, the degree of offense in a theft case is determined by the amounts involved. Robbery charges are graded according to the type of force employed while attempting to steal.
Robbery is either a first or second degree offense. Robbery is ordinarily a crime of the second degree if the accused inflicts bodily injury or uses force against another, or threatens another purposely putting him in fear of immediate bodily injury. Robbery becomes a crime of the first degree if the actor attempts to kill anyone. or purposely inflicts or attempts to inflict serious bodily injury, or is armed with, or uses, or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon.
The Essex County criminal defendant arrested and charged with robbery in this instance did not physically harm or threaten the store employees until he had already been detained for a few moments. A needle could be considered a deadly weapon. It is capable of producing serious bodily injury, but that is debatable. If we assume that the use of the needle would elevate the crime into the first degree range, the real issue becomes whether the defendant brandished the needle during the commission of the offense. If the theft was over, because the suspect was detained, then the robbery charge may not stick, and it could be treated as two separate offenses of shoplifting and assault, both disorderly persons offenses in this instance.
However, a fact finder would most likely find that the the offense was on going at the time the needle was pulled. Case law would probably back it up. Nonetheless, there are many defenses an Essex county criminal lawyer could assert in robbery cases, a few of which have been illustrated here. It should not matter if the defenses are likely to succeed. Your lawyer should always explore all the possibilities and be familiar with the case law as it pertains to your particular offense.
A well crafted argument made by your attorney could be the difference between 20 years in prison or a $500 dollar fine. It seems outlandish, but very small details in the facts of your case could determine your innocence, guilt, or more likely, the types of penalties you face.