When you listen to the news, you usually hear at least one story about someone allegedly stealing something or robbing someone. Depending upon the news report, the terms sometimes seem as if they are used interchangeably.
There are many ways to describe what we commonly refer to as “stealing.” Terms like theft, embezzlement, issuing a bad check, shoplifting, certain kinds of fraud, robbery and others all involve, on one level or another, exercising control over something (money, property or services) that doesn’t belong to you. Yet the law does not treat these offenses identically. And the classification and penalty can vary widely depending upon the nature and the amount of the “theft” involved. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you compare simple theft and robbery.
A.R.S. 13-1802 defines theft in several ways. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Controlling property of another without lawful authorization, intending to deprive the owner of that property; or
- Converting property or services of another where the property was entrusted to you for limited purposes; or
- Obtaining services or property through a material misrepresentation, intending to deprive the owner of the property or services; or
- Obtaining property of another having reason to know that the property was stolen.
In simple English, we’d describe these four examples as stealing, embezzlement, fraud, and possession of stolen property. But notice that neither these nor any of the other versions of theft in this statute talks about or refers to robbery.
Robbery is defined in A.R.S. 13-1902 as taking property from another, either from his person or in his immediate presence, and against his will, using force or threats of force.
Theft vs. Robbery – Classification and Penalty
Most thefts are classified according to the value of the property taken. Simple theft (including shoplifting) of property worth less than $1,000 is ordinarily a misdemeanor, which generally carries a potential penalty of no more than 6 months in jail, and in many cases results in probation.
Robbery, on the other hand, is always a felony. The lowest robbery classification is a class 4 felony. Aggravated robbery (robbery with an accomplice) is a class 3 felony. And armed robbery is a class 2 felony.
The huge difference in the treatment of theft and robbery is the result of the fact that unlike theft, which is considered a property crime, robbery is a violent crime. It is accompanied by force (or the threat of force). Those charged with robbery can therefore expect much harsher treatment than those accused of theft.
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