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Robbery in the State of Florida

Robbery is the taking of money or property from a person through the use of actual or threatened violence.  It is both a property crime and a violent crime.  Florida Statute 812.13 and Florida Standard Jury Instruction 15.1 reveal that Robbery comprises four basic elements:

  1. The defendant took money or property from the victim’s person or custody.
  2. Force, violence, assault, or putting in fear was used in the taking.
  3. The property taken was of some value.
  4. The taking was with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the victim of their right to the property or any benefit from it.

“Slick” Willie Sutton famously answered “because that’s where the money is” when asked why he robbed banks.  This seemingly obvious answer is a legal impossibility under Florida law.  Robberies can happen anywhere (including inside a bank), but the only thing that can be robbed is a person.  Robbery is in part a property crime, but it is equally a violent crime against a human being.


Tampa Robbery Defense Attorney

Charges for a violent crime can be life-changing. It is important that you know what you are up against and that you know your rights!  Do not talk to a law enforcement officer until you have retained an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa to protect your rights.

Attorney Joel Elsea has over a decade of experience handling serious and violent felony criminal cases, including every type of robbery.  He can help you receive the best possible results in your case.

Elsea Law Firm, P.A. is based in Tampa, but we serve clients throughout the Tampa Bay Area and the rest of the state, including Clearwater in Pinellas County, Bartow in Polk County, and Bradenton in Manatee County. Call (813) 451-8583 to request a free consultation.


Types of Florida Robbery Charges


The elements of robbery are listed at the top of this page and form a base upon which many different charges can be built.  The force/violence component of robbery does not require that a weapon be involved.  For this reason, robbery is sometimes referred to as “strongarm” robbery- especially when it is being differentiated from other types of Florida robberies.

A robbery must include either resistance from the victim to the taking of the property OR the presence of fear in the victim’s mind of the consequences of resisting the taking.  Thus, if a bank teller responds to a note from a robber by doing exactly what the robber demands with no hesitation, a robbery still occurs because of the fear of potential consequences for not complying with the note.

A Florida robber who thinks himself clever cannot “Bill Cosby” himself around the force/violence/fear/resistance problem by rendering a victim unconscious to take property.  The Florida Standard Jury Instructions are quite clear on this point; if a substance is given to a victim with the intent to make the victim lose consciousness, a subsequent taking completes the crime of robbery.

Lesser robbery charges

There are two crimes in Florida that exist in the middle ground between theft (a taking of property with no force/violence/fear- a misdemeanor in many circumstances) and robbery (a taking with force/violence/ fear- a second degree felony).

Robbery by Sudden Snatching

 Robbery by sudden snatching happens when an object is taken directly from a person’s custody without minimal, or no force.  Think purse-snatching.  Florida Statute 812.131 defines robbery by sudden snatching the following way:

  1. The defendant took money or property from the victim’s person.
  2. The property taken was of some value.
  3. The taking was with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the victim of a right to the property.
  4. In the course of the taking, the victim became aware of the taking.

 The state does not have to prove that the defendant used any force beyond that effort necessary to obtain possession of the money or property, or that the victim resisted or suffered injury.

 Resisting a Merchant

Resisting a merchant is a crime that typically occurs when a theft is discovered in a retail setting and the alleged thief tries to avoid capture using force that falls below the threshold of that required for a robbery.  This is an unusual charge that has no less than five (5) elements, per Florida Statute 812.015(6).

  1. The defendant was committing or had a committed theft from the victim. (name of owner or custodian of property).
  2. During or after the theft, the victim made a reasonable effort to recover the property.
  3. The defendant resisted the victim’s attempt to recover the property.
  4. At the time of the defendant’s resistance, the victim had probable cause to believe the defendant had concealed or removed the property.
  5. At the time of the resistance, the victim was a merchant or law enforcement officer.

This lesser included offense of robbery is also known as “Resisting Recovery of Stolen Property.”


Greater robbery charges

There are several ways that the government can enhance a robbery charge into a more serious crime.

Armed Robbery

If a robber in Florida uses a weapon to impose their will on a victim, increased penalties will apply.  A robbery will become an armed robbery only when a defendant carries a weapon during the robbery.  As such, an unarmed person who hands a note to a bank teller demanding money commits only a robbery, regardless of whether he threatens the use of a weapon in the note.  Florida law makes a distinction between mere weapons and “deadly weapons” in robbery law.  Firearms are ALWAYS considered deadly weapons when used in a robbery.


Carjacking is a crime that increases the penalty for a robbery because of what is taken from the victim.  Motor vehicles, regardless of value, are given special protection as objects of robbery in Florida.

Home Invasion Robbery

Home invasion robbery is a crime that increases the penalty for a robbery because of where it occurs.  A home invasion robbery is a combination of a robbery and a burglary of a dwelling.  Florida Statute 812.135 lists the seven elements of this crime.  It is a serious crime that can be difficult to prove because of the technical nature of the elements.


What are the Penalties for Robbery in Florida?

As mentioned earlier, robbery is both a property crime and a crime of violence.  The penalties for different types of robberies in Florida typically depend much more upon the amount of force or violence used than upon the value of property that was taken from the victim.

  • Robbery is a second degree felony with a maximum sentence of fifteen years in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Robbery by sudden snatching is a third degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Resisting a merchant is a third degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Robbery with a weapon is a first degree felony with a maximum sentence of thirty years in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Robbery with a deadly weapon/firearm is a first degree PBL (punishable by life) with a maximum sentence of life in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Carjacking is a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of thirty years in the Florida Department of Corrections.
  • Home invasion robbery is a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of thirty years in the Florida Department of Corrections.


What are Defenses to Robbery?

  1. If the taking of property was done after and separately from an assault or battery of a victim, then the acts may not be considered part of the same course of conduct.  While not a complete defense, such an approach could reduce a felony charge to misdemeanors.
  2. Mere presence. If a robbery defendant has co-defendants, there is often the possibility that one actor committed the crime alone, while others were merely present at the scene.  This defense is specifically recognized in the Florida Standard Jury Instructions.
  3. Claim of right. A defendant may have a good faith and legitimate claim to ownership or custody of the property in question, negating an essential element of the crime.
  4. Wrongful Identification. The government has the burden of proving the identification of the defendant in EVERY criminal case, not just robberies.  However, robbery charges often include interactions between strangers.  They can happen quickly.  They can happen in the dark, with masks or other disguises in play.  Eyewitness identifications are becoming more and more scrutinized in Florida cases, and their impact on robbery charges should be explored on a case by case basis by an experienced defense attorney.


Finding a Tampa Lawyer for Robbery Charges

Elsea Law Firm, P.A.is experienced in helping clients fight a variety of robbery charges, including robbery, robbery by sudden snatching, armed robbery, carjacking, and home invasion robbery. If you or a loved one has been charged with robbery, contact an experienced robbery defense lawyer in Tampa. Call attorney Joel Elsea at (813) 451-8583 to find out how he fights these serious criminal charges throughout Hillsborough County and the surrounding Tampa Bay Area.

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