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.