Robbery in New Jersey is a very serious offense and can become a first degree crime carrying 10-20 years in State Prison, if the course of committing the theft the actor attempts to kill anyone, or purposely inflicts or attempts to inflict serious bodily injury, or is armed with, or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon. All first degree and second degree robbery charges are “NERA”, no early release offenses, and the defendant must serve 85% percent of his or her sentence before they will be eligible for parole (2C:43-7.2). Therefore, robbery charges are very serious charges and one charged with such offenses needs the best possible criminal offense.Robbery in essence is a crime in which the actor commits a theft of a person or place, in which a person his present, which is accompanied by an assault of some kind. State v. Battle, 209 N.J. Super. 225 N.J. Super. 255, 260 (App. Div. 1986)
The battle therefore, no pun intended, in most cases lies in whether the assault portion was committed. In order to be guilty of robbery the actor must have the intent to steal either before the force or concurrent with force, if not there is no robbery. State ex rel. L.W., 333 N.J. Super. 492 (App. Div. 200)
Under case law the pushing of the victim in a purse-snatching constitutes a robbery. If the State is allegedly serious bodily injury the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that serious injury did occur and not mere lay opinion. State v. Norman, 405 N.J. Super. 149, 160 (App. Div. 2009)
A stealth removing of someone’s purse or wallet or pick-pocket is not robbery but only a theft offense, even if the victim feels or sees the actor committing the offense. State v. Smalls, 310 N.J. Super. 285, 291 (App. Div. 1998) Unfortunately in New Jersey many county prosecutors will indict a defendant for 1st or 2nd degree robbery when in fact only a 3rd degree theft has occurred.
For example there is much gray area in robbery in which it is alleged that a threat was made. Although no specific words or conduct is necessary, it is essential before the charge can be sustained by the jury that it must be intended to convey that immediate harm would occur if the alleged victim failed to comply. State v. Planes, 274 N.J. Super. 190, 196 (Law Div. 1994) The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actor acted purposefully to put the alleged victim in fear of immediate bodily injury. In addition, the robbery offense becomes a first degree crime if the actor uses a deadly weapon in committing the robbery. Under case law almost anything can be classified as a deadly weapon as long as the alleged victim reasonably believes it to be a deadly weapon. State v. Hickman, 204 N.J. Super. 409, 414-415 (App. Div. 1985) In State v. Rolan, 199 N.J. 575 (2009), it is the jury that must decide whether, in that case, whether the defendant used or intended to use the knife in the robbery. In that case the defendant claimed that the knife had dropped out of his pocket in the course of the robbery.
Finally, in most cases the jury can be given the lesser included charge of theft for a robbery charge. State v. Grissom, 347 N.J. Super. 469, 479 (App. Div. 2002); State v. Villanueva, 373 N.J. Super. 588, 595-596 (App. Div. 2004)