What are first, second, and third degree robbery?

A robbery occurs when a person forcibly takes property from another person. During a robbery, the perpetrator often uses or threatens to use a weapon. Penalties for armed robbery can include jail time of up to fifteen years and probation, and fines may also be imposed that can reach up to $20,000. Most state statutes specify degrees of robbery based on the severity of the crime. Penalties will typically vary according to these degrees.

Third Degree Robbery

Third degree robbery occurs when a criminal uses force or an offensive weapon to take someone else’s property. Most states classify this crime as a felony of some type. In New York, third degree robbery is considered a class D felony and may result in up to seven years of jail time. Other jurisdictions may not separate the types of robbery charges as specifically as New York, but will instead include sentencing enhancements based on factors like the perpetrator’s history and criminal record. Some of these enhancements raise the penalty if another crime like assault with a deadly weapon happened during the robbery.

Second Degree Robbery

A person is guilty of second degree robbery if he commits the act with an accomplice present. Second degree robbery may also occur if the perpetrator causes injury to a person not involved in the crime or uses a gun, knife or other deadly weapon while committing the robbery. In some states, car theft is automatically considered second degree robbery.

In New York, the penalty may include up to fifteen years of jail time. In California, second degree armed robbery can carry a penalty of two to five years in prison. The crime also counts as a strike under the state's three strikes law.

First Degree Robbery

A robbery charge is elevated to first degree robbery when the victim or someone else not involved in the crime is seriously injured. First degree robbery may also take place if the perpetrator is armed with a deadly weapon and threatens to use it against the victim.

In New York, this is considered a class B felony and carries a maximum sentence of twenty five years. California has two sets of guidelines for first degree armed robbery. If the crime was committed with more than one person and within a home or inhabited building, the sentence range is three to nine years in state prison. Otherwise, the range is three to six years.

Other states may not differentiate degrees of theft crimes, but rather degrees of felonies. For example, Florida uses a system based on first, second and third degree felonies. Armed robbery is considered a first degree felony. Under Florida’s Ten/Twenty/Life laws, the penalty may be as severe as life in prison. The best way to determine the exact penalty for armed robbery in a specific state is to check the state legislature website and consult a criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.