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What are the Different Types of Robbery?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are a number of different types of robbery, but in general they all share certain common traits and are specific types of larceny. Two of the most common forms of robbery are armed and unarmed, which may both be involved in another specific form — bank robbery. The term “highway robbery” is also often used both in reference to an actual crime, as well as in a more abstract sense in reference to a crime or perceived immoral act that is flagrant and performed boldly.

In general, robbery is differentiated from other types of theft or larceny in that it is typically performed in connection with violence or a threat of violence. Someone breaking into a car and stealing something from within the car when no one is around is committing theft, since there is no threat or violence performed against the owner of the car. On the other hand, if the person approaches a car in which the owner is currently located and threatens or does physically harm the person to steal the item from the car, then it would constitute robbery.

This would usually be unarmed, if the person committing the larceny was not using a weapon or was not threatening to use a weapon during the commission of the crime. If, however, he or she used a weapon, threatened to use a weapon, or even suggested that he or she had a weapon in a realistic way that a reasonable person would believe to be a very real threat, then it would become armed robbery. This difference is important since the armed type may carry more significant penalties. Though unarmed is still often more harshly punished than simple theft, armed larceny of this type can be even more severely punished.

Bank robbery refers to the specific act of theft from a bank, with the perceived intention of violence or actual violence committed during the crime. If someone was to break into a bank while the bank was closed and steal from it, then that would be theft. The more common type of larceny from a bank, in which a person enters a bank while it is open to demand money is a type of robbery and can be committed armed or unarmed. If the person even suggests that he or she may have a weapon, regardless of the actual presence of a weapon, then it is considered armed and is a more serious crime. In the United States, larceny from a bank is a federal crime since these institutions are typically members of the Federal Reserve and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Highway robbery is typically used to refer to any type of larceny or similar act committed flagrantly and in full sight of others. In the past, this type of larceny was committed on passing travelers on a highway, and so it was a flagrant criminal act. The term has remained in usage, and typically refers to any sort of illegal or amoral act that people view as a form of larceny done in the “face” of law enforcement or society in general.

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Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Feb 24, 2014

@browncoat - Honestly, what annoys me about that is that they will often treat white collar crime as being less of a crime than felony robbery even though it might end up doing a lot more harm. I know it is scary for a family to be confronted by a robber, but they are just one family and they are only losing the assets they happen to have at home.

There have been plenty of cases where people have ripped off thousands of retirement packages or sent people into bankruptcy through fraud and they only ever get charged with a couple of years in jail at the most.

I mean, they basically ruined thousands of lives but they face far fewer consequences because they didn't wear a balaclava while they were doing it.

By browncoat — On Feb 23, 2014

@Mor - Well, it might. I mean, if you rob a truck in the middle of the road and no one else is around, you are only threatening one person and it's in a public place. If you break into a person's home, they might have kids or older people around and they are in their personal space where they have a right to feel completely safe from intruders. Even a bank or a shop might have any number of customers there or people in the back.

I mean, I don't think any of it should be done, but I'd say robbing a truck is probably the lesser of the two evils. I don't know if robbery charges take that into account though. They might only look at whether or not a weapon was involved.

By Mor — On Feb 22, 2014

I guess that highway robbery still occurs though, because I've heard of trucks being pulled over and ripped off of their contents. If they are transporting technology or valuable chemicals or something, then it would be more than worth it to the thieves.

I guess it doesn't really matter to robbery laws whether or not the act took place in a building or on the street.

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