The Difference Between Robbery and Theft in Philadelphia
The simple answer: Force. Robbery is defined as the taking of property from another by force however slight. It is always graded as a felony offense in Pennsylvania. But, what grading of felony is dictated by how much force is used during the commission of the robbery. If it is a purse-snatching, then it is graded as a felony of the third-degree as minimal force is used. On the other hand, a gunpoint robbery is graded as a first-degree felony as the ultimate threat of deadly force is used.
Theft is defined as the unlawful taking of property of another with the intent to deprive them permanently thereof. In other words, theft is when you take something that does not belong to you and you have no intention of giving it back. However, there is no force involved in a theft. A robbery is merely a theft by force. The most common theft charged in Philadelphia is car theft. Thousands of cars are stolen off the streets of Philadelphia every year.
Robbery Trials Rely on Eyewitness Testimony
Individuals charged with robbery and theft are rarely caught at the scene of the crime. Robbery trials, therefore, often hinge on eyewitness testimony. That is, you are charged with robbery merely because the victim says you are the one that robbed them. Robberies are traumatic events that generally last seconds, often involve a weapon and catch their victim off guard. Therefore, while robbery victims insist that the defendant sitting at the defense table is the perpetrator, careful and deliberate cross-examination can demonstrate that the victim truly is not sure who robbed them. And, if there is no corroborating evidence such as proceeds recovered off of you upon arrest or from your home or car, a robbery case is extremely defendable. Scientifically, eyewitness testimony has proven to be the least reliable and trustworthy trial evidence. Yet, individuals are convicted everyday based solely on the word of another. Philadelphia robbery attorney Brian M. Fishman of The Fishman Firm has won many acquittals in serious robbery cases simply by calling into question the victim’s ability to observe the perpetrator at the time of the robbery. It is easy to sit in a well-lit courtroom and look across at the only man sitting next to the defense lawyer, and identify that person as the assailant. But, many times, the defendant is only there due to prior faulty or suggestive identification procedures by police during a photo array, a post-incident identification or a lineup.
Arrests for robbery and burglary are oftentimes the result of misidentifications by eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony has proven to be the most unreliable evidence, yet it is still usually the cornerstone to the prosecution’s case. Mr. Fishman has successfully defended many cases by convincing juries that his client was misidentified even when multiple witnesses stated they were 100% sure that it was his client that committed the crime. Eyewitnesses can be mistaken and/or can fabricate what they observed. Mr. Fishman uses cross-examination and argument to point out the small details in an eyewitness’ story to successfully setup a misidentification defense.
Robbery in Philadelphia Requires Intent
Crimes that fall under the category of theft, robbery and burglary all require the Commonwealth to prove the actor’s intent. In theft cases, not only must it be proven that the person charged was the one who took the item, but that he intended to permanently deprive the owner of it. In burglary cases, it must be proven that at the time the accused entered into the home or building, he had the intent to commit a crime. It is not enough to simply show that a crime (such as a theft or simple assault) occurred inside the premises. In many cases, there are non-criminal reasons to be inside someone else’s property. If the Commonwealth cannot exclude those possibilities then they cannot prove the crime of burglary.
The offenses of burglary and robbery are felonies but vary in degree depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. If a deadly weapon, such as a gun, is used there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five (5) to ten (10) years of state incarceration required by law if convicted. Believe it or not, the gun does not even need to be recovered to face this penalty.
The Fishman Firm also handles all similar theft offenses, including:
- Shoplifting or Retail Theft
- Car theft or car jacking
- Receiving stolen property
- Identity theft
- Armed robbery
- Writing bad or fraudulent checks
- Credit card theft
- Trafficking stolen goods
- Mail fraud
- Insurance fraud
Because every case is fact-specific, felony and misdemeanor theft and robbery charges require a knowledgeable and aggressive defense. Brian M. Fishman is a Philadelphia robbery lawyer who has secured numerous acquittals for people accused of theft, robbery and burglary offenses.
The Fishman Firm, LLC, is a criminal law firm located in Philadelphia, PA. Attorney Brian M. Fishman is a criminal defense attorney who concentrates his practice on defending the rights of those accused of criminal offenses. He has successfully defended clients in a wide range of criminal cases, and will aggressively defend your rights in court and in negotiations outside the courtroom. If you have been charged with any criminal offense in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks or Chester county, contact Brian M. Fishman at his Philadelphia office now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer.