Although the definition of a felony varies—in some cases considerably—from state to state, robbery is almost always considered a violent crime which involves the use of force or the threat of force. Because of this, robbery usually results in felony charges while the lesser crime of theft could be charged as a misdemeanor. The degree of felony resulting from your robbery charges can vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. Most states consider robbery a much more serious felony if a weapon is used to commit the robbery. When a weapon is used in a robbery, the charges usually escalate to aggravated or armed robbery.
If you have prior robbery convictions or even a history of unrelated criminal charges or happen to have been on probation or parole when arrested for robbery, your felony charges may also escalate to a higher class. Some states will also charge the alleged robber with higher levels of felony charges if the robbery was perpetrated on an elderly or disabled person, if it took place in a church or school, or if the robbery resulted in serious bodily injury or the victim of the robbery died. Robbery can result in lengthy prison sentences and serious fines. Even the lesser classes of felony robbery can lead to three or four years in prison in some states, and fifteen in others, and the higher classes of felony robber can lead to as much as forty years in prison. If you rob a bank or engage in the taking of any property belonging to the federal government, robbery charges can be escalated.
Perhaps one of the only ways robbery charges could result in a misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony would be if your criminal defense attorney were able to reach a plea agreement with the prosecutor or could negotiate for a lesser offense charge such as theft or larceny. This is a relatively rare occurrence but could happen if you have no prior criminal background or happened to be a minor at the time of the alleged crime. Although shoplifting is generally charged as theft or larceny—a misdemeanor charge—should you resist arrest after being caught shoplifting, the misdemeanor could quickly turn into a felony charge.
There have even been cases in which a shoplifter was attempting to flee after being caught shoplifting, then collided with a store security officer as they ran. The misdemeanor charges in this instance were bumped up to felony charges. As odd as this may sound, since the charges of robbery include the use or threat of force, then should bodily injury be inflicted—even unwittingly—when fleeing from a theft, then the district attorney may choose to charge you with robbery.
Many people become confused over the distinction between robbery and burglary. Burglary involves an illegal entry into a building with the intent of taking property which does not belong to you. Robbery requires the element of a victim whom you threaten with force or intimidation as you steal their property. Make sure you have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side as soon as you are charged with the crime of robbery and you may be able to have the charges dismissed altogether or at least plead to a lesser misdemeanor crime.