When someone says “I was robbed!” they likely mean they have been stolen from. Whether they were “robbed” may or may not be the case, legally speaking. Often people use the term “robbery” interchangeably with “theft” and “burglary”. However, there are very significant legal differences between these, according to Washington State legal code.
In Washington State, robbery charges are quite serious. All robbery charges are considered felonies. Stakes are high and penalties are severe.
Definition of Robbery:
Under the Revised Code of Washington statutes (RCW 9A.56.190) Robbery is defined as follows:
- A person commits robbery when he or she unlawfully takes personal property from the person of another or in his or her presence against his or her will by the use or threatened use of immediate force, violence, or fear of injury to that person or his or her property or the person or property of anyone.
- Such force or fear must be used to obtain or retain possession of the property, or to prevent or overcome resistance to the taking; in either of which cases the degree of force is immaterial.
- Such taking constitutes robbery whenever it appears that, although the taking was fully completed without the knowledge of the person from whom taken, such knowledge was prevented by the use of force or fear.
Second Degree Robbery: (RCW 9A.56.210)
- A person is guilty of robbery in the second degree if he or she commits robbery (as defined above).
- Robbery in the second degree is a class B felony.
A class B felony is generally punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.
First Degree Robbery: (RCW 9A.56.200)
- A person is guilty of robbery in the first degree if he/she commits a robbery which involves:
- Being armed with a deadly weapon
- Displaying a firearm or deadly weapon
- Inflicting bodily injury
- Robbery committed against a financial institution
- Robbery in the first degree is a class A felony.
A class A felony is punishable by up to life in prison and fines up to $50,000.
Robbery, Burglary, & Theft:
These terms are commonly interchangeably, but legally speaking there are very significant differences between them. For instance, when someone returns to their car or home to find it broken into, they might say they were “robbed”, but the likelihood is they were actually “burglarized”. Interchangeable usage is inaccurate and it is important to understand the differences.
- Theft: Theft is one of the most commonly committed crimes. Theft involves taking someone else’s property without their consent and with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of its use or possession. Theft is separated into categories measured by the value of property stolen. Please see our post detailing theft laws and penalties
- Burglary: Committing a burglary involved entering a vehicle, building, or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime within it. One can be charged with burglary even if no property was taken. The degree of burglary charge and the corresponding penalty is dependent upon what type of structure was unlawfully entered and whether the accused was armed or assaultive. Please see our post detailing burglary laws and penalties.
- Robbery: Robbery law was outlined in this post, and you can see there are distinct differences between robbery crimes and theft or burglary. Perhaps the greatest difference is the involvement of threatened use of immediate force, violence, or fear of injury that exists within the legal definition of robbery.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with a robbery offense, it is vital that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Penalties and consequences are severe and life changing. You will need a knowledgeable attorney with experience and expertise to challenge your case effectively. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.