What makes robbery a felony?

When is robbery a felony? Does it vary from state to state? What guidelines make it a felony or a misdemeanor?

While the exact definition of felony differs from state to state, robbery generally involves the taking of another person's property by force, fear, or intimidation, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.

Robbery differs from theft in that robbery always involves some use of force, or threat of force. Therefore, robbery is always considered to be a violent crime, as well as a more serious crime than theft. As a result, while theft can result in misdemeanor or theft charges, robbery usually results in a felony charge. (Learn more about felony vs. misdemeanor)

Likely to be a felony
As it is classified as a violent crime, robbery is likely to result in felony charges. The degree or severity of the felony charges depends in large part on the circumstances of the crime. For instance, many state laws provide for a more serious felony charge if a gun or another dangerous weapon is used in the commission of a robbery. In some states, robbery involving a gun is referred to as aggravated robbery or armed robbery.

Likewise, if you have a criminal history of other robbery convictions, or even other unrelated criminal convictions, or if you are currently on probation or parole, you may be charged with a higher degree of felony robbery. Other types of felony robbery that are categorized as a higher class of felony, in some states, include those involving an elderly or disabled victim, those taking place in churches or schools, or those that result in serious body injury or death to the victim.

Stiff sentences
Robbery can result in lengthy prison sentences and high fines. For lower classes of felony robbery, you could receive three or four years in some states, and even up to fifteen years in prison for a robbery conviction, but for higher classes of felony robbery, such as those involving a gun, you could serve up to forty years in prison if convicted. Additionally, some states provide for mandatory enhanced sentencing for violent crimes, such as Colorado. In Colorado, robbery is classified as a violent crime, so a robbery conviction will automatically result in a lengthier sentence.

There are also different federal laws under which you can be charged for robbery in certain circumstances. Federal felony robbery charges might occur if, for example, you rob a national bank, if the robbery involves the taking of property belonging to the federal government, or if the robbery obstructs interstate commerce. A conviction for felony federal robbery charges would result in a sentence of imprisonment to be served at a federal penitentiary.

Plea agreement
One of the only ways in which robbery would result in a misdemeanor conviction rather than a felony conviction would be if you reached a plea agreement or the state agreed to reduce your charges to a lesser-included offense, such as theft or larceny. This might happen if there were certain mitigating factors surrounding the robbery, such as if you had no prior criminal background, or were a minor at the time of the crime. Since robbery necessarily involves an element of violence, it is typically categorized as a felony-level crime.