What is the Difference Between Theft and Robbery?

Many people think theft and robbery are the same. But there are significant distinctions in how the law treats the two crimes. One of the most important points to remember is that there are many types of theft. Robbery is only one of the ways someone can commit theft. Others include embezzlement, shoplifting, burglary, receiving stolen property, fraud, and conspiracy. 


The key factor distinguishing a robbery from other types of theft is the use or threat of force against the victim. 


If you are charged with any theft crime, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you immediately.  


There’s no such thing as a minor theft crime. A robbery charge is the most serious theft crime and can lead to life in prison.  


Any theft conviction in Florida can follow you many years into the future. Florida does not allow you to expunge or seal any case in which you were convicted. And a theft offense represents dishonesty that could hinder your getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting credit.  



Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, has successfully defended all forms of theft allegations, including serious robbery cases. For the experience and skill obtained through real courtroom experience, get the professionals who dedicate themselves to defending the accused. Call Stechschulte Nell today. 


Different Definitions for Theft and Robbery in Old Common Law 


The clearest way to see the difference between theft and robbery is to look at their legal definitions: 


Theft is defined in common law as follows:  

  • Taking and carrying away the personal property of another person with the intent to permanently deprive them of its use or value. 


Robbery is defined in common law this way: 

  • Taking personal property from a person’s custody or from their immediate presence by the use of force or by the threat of force.  


What Does Common Law Mean? 


Common law is the law that developed over centuries through judges’ decisions. This is different from “statutory” law, which is the law that state and federal legislatures enact when they make new laws. The important difference is that statutory law always outranks common law when addressing the same topic. You can view the U.S. Constitution as the ultimate in statutory law because it outranks all others. 


Florida Statutory Law Replaced Most Common Law 


Because common law sometimes created unintended legal results, the legislature enacted statutes eliminating those issues. For example, in common law, theft required the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the value of the thing taken. In a scenario where a group of teens took a stranger’s car without permission and used it for a joyride but did not intend to deprive the owner permanently, is that still common law theft? 


The State of Florida solved this problem and others like it by redefining these crimes in Florida statutory law. Florida legislature enacted a criminal law prohibiting someone from taking another person’s property without permission with the intent to deprive the owner of its use or value permanently or temporarily.  


Chapter 812 of the Florida statutes redefined all forms of criminal theft in Florida and specify precisely what elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of various types of theft, including robbery. 


Penalties for Theft, Robbery, and Related Crimes in Florida 


Because robbery and similar theft offenses involving force or violence are the most serious, let’s look at the potential penalties that the state of Florida can impose if a defendant is convicted. 


Robbery is defined under Florida law as the taking of money or other property from a person or from their custody when in the course of the taking, there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.  


A victim must be present in order for robbery to occur, unlike other thefts that can be accomplished when no victim is present.  



  • Armed with a firearm or deadly weapon in the course of the robbery, up to life in prison and a $15,000 fine. (1st-degree felony) 
  • Armed with a weapon in the course of the robbery, up to 30 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine. (1st-degree felony) 
  • Not armed with a weapon in the course of the robbery, up to 15 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine. (2nd-degree felony) 


What does “in the course of the robbery” mean regarding possession of a weapon? The law in Florida includes any act during an attempt to commit the robbery or during the flight after the attempt or robbery to be part of the robbery.  


Other forms of theft in which force or violence is used include sudden snatching from a person, carjacking, and home-invasion robbery. The use of force threatened or applied against a person during the commission of any theft increases the seriousness of the crime enormously. 


Other Theft Crimes and Penalties in Florida 


Thefts can be committed under an almost unlimited range of circumstances.  


Determining whether a particular theft can constitute a first, second, or third-degree misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the thing taken and the manner in which the crime was committed. 


Theft crime penalties can also be enhanced under Florida law when a defendant has been convicted of a previous offense, especially when the crimes are similar.  


These offenses can include any offense ranging from shoplifting something valued under $100 (2nd-degree misdemeanor carrying 60-day jail maximum), to possession of anti-shoplifting detection equipment in a retail store, which is a 3rd-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.  


Theft can be committed by getting cable or utility services illegally, embezzling funds entrusted to you by another person, defrauding someone by deceit, receiving goods that you know to be stolen, entering another person’s property without their knowledge or consent with the intent to steal, and many others. 


Learn More > Grand Theft Vs. Petit Theft in Florida  


You Need an Experienced Theft and Robbery Defense Law Firm 


If you or your family member is charged with a theft crime of any kind in Florida, the criminal defense lawyer you call needs to understand all the nuances of theft-related law, and how to identify and present the most effective defense. Preventing a theft conviction in Florida, either by winning a dismissal or by winning a reduction in the charges with a non-conviction outcome, requires skill and legal experience.  


In Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, call Stechschulte Nell, Attorney at Law, for experienced, dependable criminal defense representation at 813-280-1244.

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