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Theft vs. Robbery: What Are the Differences Between the Two?

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Theft is sweeping across Florida. Nearly 300,000 cases of theft were reported to Florida law enforcement officials in 2020. You can face a theft charge at any moment. Yet that not be the only charge you face. You may get a robbery charge, and it can be hard to tell what the differences between the two are. You need the facts about theft vs. robbery in order to launch a strong defense for yourself.

What is theft, and what is robbery? What are offenses related to the two crimes? What are the potential penalties you face, and how can you defend yourself?

Answer these questions and you can find your way forward after an arrest. Here is your quick guide.

The Basics of Theft

Section 812.014 of the Florida Statutes provides the definition of theft. Someone commits theft when they obtain, use, or try to use someone else’s property for their own benefit.

They may want to deprive the victim of the property to harm them. They may want to use the property for their own use, including selling the property for profit.

Someone can be prosecuted for second-degree petit theft for stealing a piece of property of very low value. Theft of property valued between $100 and $750 is first-degree petit theft.

If someone steals property that is worth more than $750, they can receive a third-degree grand theft charge. The theft of property valued between $20,000 and $100,000 is grand theft in the second degree. The theft of property at more than $100,000 is grand theft of the first degree.

Florida also has regulations related to the theft of particular objects. The theft of a firearm or motor vehicle always counts as grand theft of the third degree, regardless of the value of the object.

Florida considers theft to be a crime against property. It does not have to involve violence. The victim may not be aware of the theft until after it has occurred.

The Essentials of Robbery

Robbery occurs when someone takes property from someone else while using force. The force may amount to a physical gesture or a verbal threat.

As with theft, the state of Florida has several degrees of robbery. If the robber uses a firearm or a deadly weapon, they have committed robbery of the first degree. They also commit a first-degree robbery if they carry a weapon during the robbery, regardless of whether or not they used it.

Robbery without a deadly weapon is second-degree robbery. But someone may still use their hands or make a death threat during the robbery.

Robbery is a crime against a person that requires the use of violence. The victim must be present and in the path of direct harm.

Other Criminal Charges

Burglary is a separate offense from theft and robbery. It occurs when someone enters a building with the purpose of committing an offense inside the building. They may break into a home to steal something and/or assault someone.

Burglary of the second degree occurs when someone enters a home, office building, or emergency vehicle without a weapon. It becomes a first-degree offense when they enter the building with a weapon, commit an assault, or cause more than $1,000 of property damage.

Someone can get charged with burglary and robbery or theft simultaneously. They can also be charged with assault if they touch someone or make a verbal threat.

Larceny is another term for theft in the state of Florida. Some publications from the Florida Department of Justice use “larceny” instead of “theft,” but the two mean the same thing.

In the state of Florida, pickpocketing and shoplifting are generally considered to be types of petit theft. They are not separate crimes in the criminal code.


Petit theft carries misdemeanor weight in Florida. Yet a defendant can still go to jail for up to 60 days or receive six months of probation for stealing a piece of property of less than $100 in value. First-degree petit theft is a first-degree misdemeanor, so someone can go to prison for up to one year.

If the defendant has been convicted of one previous theft crime, their offense automatically carries first-degree misdemeanor weight. If they have been convicted of multiple thefts, they may receive a third-degree felony. This is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Third-degree grand theft is also a third-degree felony offense. Second-degree grand theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison while first-degree grand theft can lead to a 30-year prison sentence.

Robbery is always a felony offense in Florida. Second-degree robbery is a second-degree felony while first-degree robbery is a first-degree felony. They carry the same penalties as grand theft.


Dealing with a theft or robbery charge can be extremely difficult. The laws are vague enough that many actions can be considered thefts or robberies, including legitimate ones.

Before you deal with a theft or robbery case, you should call a criminal lawyer who specializes in theft cases. You should also get information about the charges you face, including additional crimes like burglary.

An alibi provides an alternate explanation for where you were when the criminal offense occurred. You can use eyewitness testimonies, surveillance camera footage, and other pieces of evidence to show you were somewhere else. If eyewitnesses put you at the scene, you can say that they mistook you for another person.

You can claim that you took property that you thought was yours. You can also say that you did not intend to deprive the owner of their property. You may have been coerced into stealing something or under the influence of drugs.

A robbery charge hinges on the presence of the victim. You can assert that you never met the victim with an alibi offense or by challenging their witness statement.

Theft vs. Robbery

The differences between theft vs. robbery are essential for you to figure out. Both involve the unlawful taking of property. However, theft can occur without force while robbery always involves violence.

Burglary is a separate offense that occurs during break-ins. Larceny is another term for theft and related offenses like pickpocketing.

Both theft and robbery carry significant penalties, including long prison sentences. However, you can offer an alibi or another offense to defend yourself.

The best way to defend yourself is with a lawyer’s assistance. Hanlon Law serves the Tampa area. Contact us today.

Hanlon Law
210 N Pierce St
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 228-7095

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