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What Is the Difference between Theft and Robbery?

Some people believe the property criminal offences of theft and robbery are the same type of criminal offence. However, this misconception is not accurate and each of the crimes are considered their own type of criminal offence as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada.

A person can be accused of theft if they have knowingly taken the property of another person as a means to deprive the owner of the property, while converting it for their own benefit. The person, who took the property, does not have to keep the property in their possession. In some cases, they could destroy, sell, or dispose of the property they stole.

In addition, the law makes distinctions for theft offences based upon the combined value of the property stolen when bringing charges against a suspect: Theft Over $5,000 and Theft Under $5,000.

What makes theft offences different from robbery offences is the property is taken or stolen without the owner or their agent present during the commission of the offence. Typically, the owner or their agent realizes the property is missing after the suspect has already has it in their possession.

For instance, shoplifting is a theft offence, where a person steals property from a store without the own or their agent being aware of such activities. Even with security cameras and being monitored, the suspect is often not approached until after they leave the store and detained for questioning by law enforcement.

Robbery, on the other hand, is using violence, the threat of violence, or force to steal property from the owner or their agent. The law makes four generalized distinctions on how robbery is committed, as follows:

  • A person robs another of property while they are armed with a weapon or an imitation weapon.
  • A person commits assault towards another with the intention to steal their property.
  • A person threatens to use violence or uses violence while stealing the property.
  • A person uses violence against another, either before or after stealing their property.

Depending upon the circumstances and evidence, the Crown could potentially charge a person suspected of robbery with other criminal offences. For instance, if the suspect inflects bodily injury or causes the death of the property owner or their agent, the accused could also be charged with an assault offence and/or a homicide offence in addition to the robbery offence.

In summary, while both theft and robbery involve the stealing of property, theft does not contain the element of force, violence or threat of violence, while robbery does.

DISCLAIMER: The above information is for reference purposes only and should not be used as actual legal advice. If you or someone you care about, has been charged with theft or robbery, you need to speak to experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg today. Call our law office at 416-428-7360 now to schedule a no-obligation consultation to get your questions answered and obtain actual legal advice.