Robbery Defense Lawyers in Northern Virginia
The criminal lawyers at Livesay & Myers have years of experience in aggressively defending clients against robbery charges in Northern Virginia.
Robbery is defined in Virginia as the taking of money or property from another person by injuring or threatening to injure that person. Robbery carries a punishment range in Virginia of five years to life in prison.
Robbery is essentially the crime of larceny combined with an assault or battery. A defendant who takes money or property from another person but not by injuring or threatening to injure may have committed larceny, but is not guilty of robbery. The specific factors of a particular theft, including where the theft took place, whether a weapon was involved, whether the victim was threatened or physically harmed, etc., must all be examined in determining whether the theft amounted to robbery or perhaps “merely” larceny.
The specific circumstances of the robbery also help determine the likely punishment if the defendant is convicted. An unarmed defendant with no prior criminal record who robs a victim on the street by merely threatening harm, without actually inflicting harm, will likely see a relatively light punishment. In such a situation, the Virginia Sentencing Guidelines actually recommend probation or up to a six-month jail sentence. However, a defendant who uses a weapon in a robbery automatically increases their punishment range under the guidelines, and faces the possibility of years of incarceration. [Keep in mind that the guidelines only serve to advise the judge; a jury sentencing a defendant convicted or robbery does not consider the guidelines, but merely punishes the defendant according to the five years to life in prison range.]
Virginia only has one robbery statute, Virginia Code Section 18.2-58. There is no difference between a bank robbery, street robbery, strong arm robbery or armed robbery. All are considered robbery.
Robbery vs. Larceny From the Person
Robbery and larceny from the person are two distinct crimes under Virginia law, but it is sometimes tricky to distinguish between the two. In general, larceny from a person is a crime focused on the perpetrator’s intent, while robbery is a crime focused on the effect on the victim.
Larceny is defined in Virginia Code Sections 18.2-95 and 18.2-96. It normally involves theft of property from a location, but can also be larceny of property directly from a person. Larceny from a location of property with a value of $200 or more is a felony, while larceny of property worth less then $200 from a location is a misdemeanor. For larceny of property from a person the dividing line between felony and misdemeanor is much lower: just $5. Larceny of property with a value of just $5 or more directly from a person is a felony in Virginia.
One reason why larceny from a person is treated so seriously in Virginia may be that the act comes very close to being a robbery.
To convict a defendant of larceny from a person in Virginia, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant took money or property from a person, and also that the defendant took the money or property intentionally, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property. The victim does not even need to know that their property has been stolen for a larceny of the person to occur.
To convict a defendant of robbery, the prosecutor must prove all of those elements of a larceny—that the defendant intentionally took money or property from a person, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property—but also that the taking was done with violence or intimidation.
Thus, a person may not know that a defendant has committed a larceny from their person (think about a skilled pickpocket), but would certainly know that they have been robbed.
Here are some examples that illustrate the differences between robbery and larceny from the person in Virginia:
Example 1. Joe is walking down the street with his headphones on, oblivious to the world around him. Joe stops at a busy crosswalk. Ralph snatches Joe’s wallet from his back pocket and begins to run off. Joe notices the commotion, feels his back pocket and realizes his wallet is gone. Ralph has most likely committed the crime of larceny from the person. He used stealth and guile, not violence or intimidation, to deprive Joe of his property.
Example 2. Joe is walking down the street with his headphones on, oblivious to the world around him. Joe reaches a crosswalk, where Ralph bumps Joe with his shoulder, pulls the wallet out of Joe’s pocket and begins to run. Because of Ralph’s act of violence directly preceding the taking, Ralph’s crime will likely be charged as a robbery.
Example 3. Joe is in his home. Ralph breaks in and verbally threatens to harm Joe if he doesn’t give Ralph all his valuable electronic equipment. Based upon the threat, Joe agrees to let Ralph take his television. Ralph leaves the residence without ever touching Joe. Ralph’s threat of harm, directly linked to Joe’s turning over the property, makes this a robbery.
Example 4. Joe’s cousin, John, is a soldier, home on leave. John is in the bedroom of his home when Ralph breaks in and tries to steal the television from John’s living room. Alerted by the noise, John makes his way to the living room where he makes his presence known to Ralph. Ralph turns and threatens to shoot John if he comes any closer. A quick survey of the situation leads John to conclude that Ralph has no weapon, and so John continues to approach Ralph. Ralph grabs the television and tries to run out of the house. John pursues Ralph and tackles him outside the home. John later tells the police who arrive on the scene that he was not afraid of Ralph’s threat because it was clear Ralph was unarmed. In this scenario, there is a good possibility that Ralph would be charged with larceny (or breaking and entering) rather than robbery, because John never exhibited or expressed any fear or apprehension of harm. On the other hand, if Ralph had actually pointed a gun, even if John had expressed that he was not afraid, then Ralph would likely be prosecuted for robbery—because pointing a firearm at another person is considered an act of violence.
Example 5. Joe’s other cousin, Jack, is a teller at a bank. Ralph, wearing a ski mask, walks into the bank, hands Jack a bag and instructs him to fill it with cash. Jack complies. Although Ralph has made no direct threat, and Jack was not necessarily placed in any fear of harm, Ralph’s conduct clearly intimidated Jack into complying with the demand to put money in the bag. Ralph would thus be charged with robbery.
Our Defense Lawyers
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced criminal defense attorneys in Northern Virginia. The size and resources of our firm allow us to offer a comprehensive, aggressive defense to each client. Our attorneys are supported by a team of paralegals and law clerks. We also have a network of private investigators and forensic experts at our disposal. Be sure to read our client reviews, then review the profiles of each of our criminal attorneys to find the one who is the best fit for you.
Free Consultation. If you have been charged with robbery in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys today. Each of our offices are open Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–5:30 pm; during off-hours please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.