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New York Robbery vs. Larceny Frequently Asked Questions

What is larceny?

In New York larceny is a specific type of theft crime. It is defined as wrongfully taking, obtaining, or withholding, property from its owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. There are multiple methods of committing larceny including by trick, embezzlement, by false pretenses, by extortion, or by issuing a bad check. It can be either a misdemeanor (petit larceny) or a felony (grand larceny).

What is robbery?

Robbery is also a form of theft. Under New York penal law, robbery is defined as forcible stealing. If a person takes property from another person by the use of physical force, intimidation, or the threat of force, then that person would face a charge of felony robbery, not larceny. This would be the case regardless of the value of the property stolen. If the robbery is committed with a firearm or other weapon, or if someone is injured, the penalty for the crime is likely to be more severe.

In order to convict someone charged with robbery, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant committed larceny
  • The defendant used physical force or threatened to use force
What is the difference between robbery charges and larceny charges?

In New York robbery and larceny are both categorized as theft crimes. However, they are very different from one another. Robbery involves stealing using physical force or the threat of physical force, while larceny does not involve force. In fact, with larceny the theft can take place when no one is around. With robbery someone must be present for the perpetrator to threaten.

For example, as Joe walked through a high end men’s store, he slipped a $500 wallet into his pocket and walked out of the store. Joe committed larceny. Sam walked into a convenience store, pulled out a gun and demanded that the clerk give him all of the money in the register. Sam committed robbery.

Another important difference is that larceny can be a misdemeanor or a felony while robbery is always a felony.

How is sentencing difference for a larceny conviction compared to a robbery conviction?

In general robbery is prosecuted as a more serious crime than larceny. An element of robbery is the use of force or the threat of force. As a result, there tends to always be present an aggravating factor that would result in a more severe sentence. In fact, two of the robber offenses, robbery in the second degree and robbery in the first degree, are deemed violent felonies. This means that the sentence guidelines requirement higher minimum prison terms.

Larceny can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property stolen. As a misdemeanor, there is a likelihood that the defendant would receive little jail time, if any at all. Because larceny does not involve violence, felony convictions tend to result in lighter sentences then robbery convictions. However, in addition to the classification of the offense, there are many factors that go into sentencing, including the defendant’s criminal history.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are facing criminal charges based on theft, it is important that you have experienced representation. There may be defenses to the charges and extenuating circumstances that may result in the charges being dropped, reduced, or you being acquitted. The skilled criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have more than 2 decades of experience successfully representing clients in New York charged with felonies and misdemeanors. We can help. Contact us at 800.NY.NY.LAW (800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Queens, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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