My last two robbery blogs discussed robbery by force and robbery by sudden snatching. Both contemplate the taking of someone’s property from their person or immediate presence. Moreover, both require that the victim be aware of the theft before it’s completed. The main difference, of course, is one does not require force, aka snatching.
But what about robbery by force or sudden snatching in a retail business?
I once represented someone accused of robbery by force for taking a case of beer from the refrigerator of a gas station without paying for it. The gas station employees attempted to stop my client from taking the beer. They blocked the exit and tried to pry the beer from his hand. With the case of beer tucked under one arm, he used the other to hit and push both employees to the ground. He then walked out of the store with the beer and drove away.
Robbery or Shoplifting?
I recall initially thinking this is shoplifting, not robbery. But I could not have been more wrong. First, let’s think about immediate presence. Like I mentioned in my last blog, immediate presence is not limited to “within arm’s length” or “facing the victim”. There is case law stating property is within the immediate presence of a shop keeper if it’s within the retail space (see Sweet v. State, 304 Ga.App. 474, 697 S.E.2d 246 (2010)).
As I’ve discussed before, the shopkeepers must be aware of the taking before it is complete. In my beer case, the beer was taken from the shopkeeper’s immediate presence (because it was in their retail space) AND they were aware of the taking before it was complete. Finally, my client used force to fend off the shopkeepers and complete the taking of the beer. The elements of robbery by force were all checked off.
A Different Order of Events
Now, let’s pretend the shopkeeper did not realize he was stealing the beer until the very moment he walked out the store exit? Theft by taking or shoplifting? I think a prosecutor in this scenario could make an argument for theft by sudden snatching because the shopkeeper is aware of the theft before it’s complete and property was removed from the shopkeeper’s immediate presence.
If you or someone you know has been charged with robbery contact our office today for a free consultation.