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Theft vs Robbery in Louisiana: The Key Differences Explained

Theft and robbery both involve stealing something that doesn’t belong to you. But did you know that Louisana law distinguishes between the two acts?

The Louisiana Criminal Code deals with the differences between theft vs. robbery beginning in Section 14:01. While there are plenty of nuances in the law, one of the key differences between theft vs. robbery depends on whether the victim is present when the crime occurs.

Are you or someone you love accused of one of these crimes? Here’s what you need to know about the law to craft a defense.

What is Theft?

Louisiana state statute defines theft as taking something that doesn’t belong to you with the intention of keeping it. The state labels it “misappropriation without violence.”

You can commit theft without ever seeing the property’s true owner. Theft is defined by stealing something without making contact with the person who owns it.

Theft can be as simple as picking up a cell phone that someone left on a table and pocketing it with no effort made to give it back. Another very common example is shoplifting from a store.

The theft statute also deals with big items, like livestock, firearms, or cars. It also covers identity theft. 

Commonly, theft occurs through fraud. For example, if a person misrepresents themselves as the IRS and demands payment for back taxes, then that’s theft. However, there may also be fraud charges involved depending on the evidence.

What are the Penalties for Theft?

The penalties for theft depend on the value of the property stolen.

If you’re charged with theft of goods (i.e., shoplifting), and you are accused of stealing items valued at under $500, and you have one or fewer prior vaccinations, you can see a fine of up to $500 and potentially jail time up of to six months. The penalties grow as the value grows. If you are charged with theft of goods over $1,500, then you can face a fine of up to $3,000 and jail time of up to 10 years.

If you’re caught stealing something noted in the statutes, like timber, livestock, animals, crawfish, or anhydrous ammonia, and the theft is valued at over $25,000, then you could face a maximum fine of $10,000 and ten years of hard labor.

What is Robbery?

Robbery is a more serious crime compared to theft because robbery occurs when you take someone directly from someone else: it’s a crime against another person. In the words of the state, it’s “misappropriation with violence to the person.”

Lousiana law describes several types of robberies:

  • Armed robbery
  • First-degree robbery
  • Armed robbery with the use of a firearm
  • Second-degree robbery
  • Simple robbery

Armed robbery occurs when someone uses force or intimidation with a dangerous weapon to take anything of value that’s in the victim’s possession. A weapon might be a knife, an ax, or anything other than a firearm that can be used to injure or kill the victim.

First-degree robbery is similar to armed robbery, but in this case, the assailant doesn’t have a deadly weapon even when they lead the victim to believe otherwise. This can mean using a fake gun or knife or merely saying they have a gun even if they don’t.

Armed robbery with the use of a firearm relates specifically to armed robberies committed with a gun.

Simple robbery occurs when you take something of value from another person by use of force or intimidation but without a weapon. 

Carjacking and purse-snatching are also robberies, but they fall under separate statutes.

What Are the Penalties for Robbery in Louisiana?

Robbery is a varied crime, and it comes with a wide range of charges and penalties.

As you can imagine, the penalties escalate as the severity of the crime grows. But one of the big differences between theft vs. robbery is that robbery charges aren’t necessarily based on the value of what’s stolen.

Instead, they’re more often based on the type or level of intimidation involved. Using a firearm – loaded or not – automatically adds five years to any robbery sentence.

The penalties are as follows:

  • Armed robbery: 10-99 years hard labor (no parole, probation, or suspended sentences)
  • First-degree robbery: 3-40 years hard labor (no parole, probation, or suspended sentences)
  • Armed robbery with use of a firearm: an additional five years for use of firearm (on top of armed robbery sentence)
  • Simple robbery: fine of up to $3,000, or imprisonment of up to 7 years with or without hard labor, or both
  • Carjacking: 2-20 years hard labor
  • Purse-snatching: 2-20 years imprisonment with or without hard labor

As with theft, prior convictions play a role in sentencing. However, the mandatory minimums for robbery in Louisiana are much higher than they are for most types of theft.

Defending Theft vs. Robbery in Louisiana

The differences between theft vs. robbery mean that the defenses are very different. When dealing with theft, there may or may not be any witnesses. But in a robbery, the witness is the victim, and a robbery is usually considered to be a violent crime.

Preparing the right defense requires a criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge to examine the case very carefully and tailor it to the circumstances. Both crimes might include finding witnesses who might not have come forward, talking to the arresting officer, and hiring forensic experts.

Are You Facing Theft or Robbery Charges?

The difference between theft vs. robbery is substantial. Theft can be as simple as shoplifting a lipstick and escalate to a substantial crime, but robbery is a violent crime by definition.

No matter the charges, you need a defense tailored to the charges, circumstances, and your personal history.

Have you been arrested for theft, robbery, or an associated crime? Carl Barkemeyer is still accepting clients – no office visit needed. Get in touch today for a phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge.