Robbery vs Theft: The Differences and the Consequences
If you get caught stealing, you could be charged with theft.
If you get caught stealing, you could be charged with robbery.
Robbery and theft may seem like different terms for the same action. And in a way, they are. But there are big differences.
If you get charged with theft in Illinois, you can thank your lucky stars you weren’t charged with robbery. Under Illinois state law, the two are completely different crimes with very different penalties.
So, what is the difference?
Theft Definition and Penalties
Theft is committed when an individual obtains unauthorized control over another individual’s property. Basically, theft is the act of stealing someone’s stuff.
Theft is usually done in secret: shoplifting, stealing workplace property, and embezzlement are all committed without confrontation and considered theft under Illinois state law.
Illinois state law has four classifications of theft. Each classification of theft includes a different amount of property stolen, and therefore has different consequences. We have discussed these penalties in previous blog posts: Illinois has one of the lowest felony theft thresholds in the country. Theft of just $300 can saddle you with a Class 4 felony charge. People convicted of a Class 4 felonies typically spend several months in jail.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you steal a designer bag or sneak a few bills from your employer’s cash register, you might have to spend up to three years in prison.
Robbery Definition and Penalties
What shoplifting is to theft, a “stickup” is to robbery. Using imminent force or threats to obtain someone else’s property is considered robbery in the state of Illinois. These types of crimes usually involve direct confrontation. If you snatch a purse from a lady walking down the street, or hold up a convenience store, you may be charged with robbery.
Different situations and factors lead to different types of robbery charges:
Simple robbery is classified as a Class 2 felony. For your first offense, you will face a sentence of three to seven years in jail and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.
If the robbery took place in a school, day care, childcare facility, or place of worship, the crime will be elevated to a Class 1 felony. If you are convicted of a Class 1 felony, you will face a sentence of four to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.
Aggravated robbery is also considered a Class 1 felony. Aggravated robbery is a charge used for robberies with certain factors present. These factors can include (but are not limited to):
- Victim was over the age of 60 or under the age of 16
- Victim was handicapped
- The robbery was considered a hate crime
- The robbery caused bodily harm or permanent injury to the victim
If you were armed at the time of the robbery, or discharged a weapon at the time of the robbery, you may be charged with armed robbery, which is considered a Class X felony. This is the most severe felony charge you can receive in Illinois. You may face a sentence of six to 55 years in prison (or life in prison) and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.
If your robbery involves obtaining control of a vehicle through force or threat, you may be charged a different charge altogether. “Vehicular hijacking” is considered a Class 1 felony; “aggravated vehicular hijacking” is considered a Class X felony.
Other Related Charges
The sentences for all of these crimes are defined by state regulations, the amount of money stolen, the defendant’s prior convictions, and any aggravating factors that may have affected the case.
If you have been charged of a theft-related crime, it is important to learn the specifics behind the charges you are facing so that you know how to fight back.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.