Robbery or Burglary?

It is not uncommon for people to use “robbery” and “burglary” interchangeably. For example, a person enters their home to discovery it’s been ransacked. They might exclaim, “I’ve been robbed!” That exclamation is inaccurate under Georgia law. In Georgia, that person is a victim of burglary, not robbery, because Georgia defines burglary as entering, or remaining in, a building without authority with the intent to commit a felony.

Robbery on the other hand contemplates taking property from the person or immediate presence of another with intent to commit theft. There are three types of robbery in Georgia: robbery by force, intimidation or threat of violence, and sudden snatching. I will review all three flavors in future blog posts, but for now let’s review sudden snatching.

Robbery by Snatching Scenario

When I think of robbery by sudden snatching, I picture an elderly woman walking along a city sidewalk with her purse. Suddenly, her purse is snatched off her shoulder by a swift offender. The offender does not use any force to take the purse from her; he merely snatches it off her person.

The lack of force employed to secure the purse highlights a key distinction between robbery by force and sudden snatching. If the elderly woman resisted and the offender used force by, say, pushing her to the ground to take her purse, then the offender committed robbery by force, not sudden snatching. Sudden snatching literally means taking the purse without any use of force.

A Key Distinction

Another key element of robbery by sudden snatching is that the victim must be conscious of the theft before it is completed. Say the elderly woman walking down the street does not realize the offender snatched her purse from her person, and only realizes her purse is missing when she attempts to pay the fee at her dry cleaners later that afternoon. As the offender’s attorney, I would argue the offender could not be prosecuted for robbery by sudden snatching because the victim was not aware of the theft when it happened. The offender may be guilty of theft by taking (because theft by taking does not require the victim to be conscious of the theft before it is completed), but he is not guilty of robbery by sudden snatching.

If you or someone you know has been charged with robbery contact our office today for a free consultation. We will be happy to walk through your goals and inform you of the various defenses that can be implemented for your case.

by Sarah Armstrong