As Westchester County theft lawyers, we know that Theft, robbery, and burglary are three different crimes. Burglary happens when someone enters a building or vehicle with the intention of committing a crime. Theft is the unlawful taking of property with the intention of permanently depriving the rightful owner of that property.

Robbery, however, requires force or the threat of force. The force may be a weapon – or simply implying that you have a weapon. Because of the risk to the public, robbery is considered more serious than theft, and if anyone is injured in a robbery, the charge will be even more serious.

Handcuffs After Arrest

New York law spells out three “degrees” of robbery. What constitutes first-, second-, and third-degree robbery in this state? What are the penalties? And how can you defend yourself if you are accused of robbery in New York?


Under New York state law, someone commits a robbery when, in the course of committing a burglary and/or theft, that person uses or threatens to use immediate physical force to:

  • prevent or overcome resistance to taking or retaining the property illegally
  • compel the property’s owner (or another person) to turn over the property or to otherwise act in a way that assists the commission of the crime
  • Every robbery charge is a felony charge in New York. A conviction for robbery may entail a minimum mandatory prison sentence.


An individual in New York commits a robbery in the first degree when he or she forcibly steals property, and while committing that crime or immediately thereafter, that individual or another perpetrator of the crime:

  • is armed with a deadly weapon
  • displays a firearm or any item that is perceived by the victim(s) to be a firearm
  • uses or threatens to use any dangerous instrument
  • seriously physically injures anyone who did not participate in the crime

First-degree robbery in New York is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction by 10-to-25 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 or twice the amount involved in the robbery, whichever is higher. The minimum mandatory sentence for a first offense is 5 years in prison.


An individual commits a robbery in the second degree in New York when he or she uses force to steal property and:

  • That individual is assisted by another person who is actually present.
  • That individual or another perpetrator of the crime physically injures anyone who did not participate in the crime.
  • That individual or another perpetrator displays a firearm or what is perceived by the victim(s) to be a firearm.
  • The stolen property is a motor vehicle.

Consequences of Robbery Charge

Second-degree robbery is a Class C felony punishable upon conviction by 7-to-15 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 or twice the amount involved in the robbery, whichever is higher. The mandatory minimum sentence for a second-degree robbery conviction is three-and-a-half years.


The criminal courts in New York usually treat robbery with a phony weapon exactly like a robbery with a real weapon. The legal question is whether the robbery victims believed that they were genuinely threatened with real injury – or with death.

In other words, if someone modifies a toy gun to make it look real and uses the toy gun to commit a robbery, that person will probably be charged with first- or second-degree robbery.


In New York, a robbery with no other aggravating factors is usually prosecuted as robbery in the third degree.

Nypd Arresting Suspect

To convict a defendant of a third-degree robbery charge, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • committed a theft (or “larceny”)
  • and used or threatened to use immediate physical force on another person
  • for the purpose of taking or retaining the property being stolen

Third-degree robbery is a Class D felony punishable upon conviction with 2-to-7 years in prison, and/or – like other degrees of robbery – a fine of up to $5,000 or twice the sum involved in the crime, whichever is higher.

If you are arrested and charged with robbery – in any degree – in Westchester County or anywhere in New York, you must have legal representation at once. You must arrange as quickly as you can to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.


How will your attorney defend you if you face a robbery charge in this state? The usual defenses against a robbery charge are:

  • Factual innocence: If you did not commit the robbery, your defense attorney will work aggressively to help you avoid a conviction. Some robbery defendants are victims of mistaken identity; others may be the victims of entirely fabricated robbery claims.
  • Duress or entrapment: If someone bullies or coerces you to commit a robbery that you would not otherwise commit, entrapment may be your defense. If someone forces you to commit a robbery by threatening you with injury or death, duress may be your defense.
  • If you are placed under arrest and charged with robbery in New York, be smart and be wise. Exercise your right to remain silent. Insist on your right to have your lawyer present during any questioning.

Mistaken Identity After a Charge

Of course, every criminal case is unique, but having the guidance of a reliable and skilled New York criminal defense lawyer is the wisest step that you can take when you’re facing a criminal charge in this state.


A defense lawyer will review the charge and the evidence against you and will then bring your robbery case to its best possible conclusion. In some cases, your attorney will be able to have the robbery charge reduced, dropped, or dismissed.

If the evidence against you is strong, your attorney may suggest that you accept a plea bargain, plead guilty to a lesser charge, and serve a less severe sentence.

However, if you are convinced that you’re innocent of the charge, you should insist on your right to a jury trial. An experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney can explain to a jury why you are innocent and why they should return a not guilty verdict.

A defendant who is convicted of robbery in this state will receive no mercy from the court and may, in fact, receive a mandatory minimum prison term. A good lawyer’s help is your right. If you are charged with robbery in New York, find a phone and make the call immediately.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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