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The elements of a robbery charge in Pennsylvania

Robbery is a violent crime, which means it is always charged as a felony in Pennsylvania and the penalties are harsh. In order to prove robbery charges beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors must prove that the defendant used force or the threat of force to commit theft. The need to prove violence or the threat of violence is what sets robbery apart from similar crimes like theft and burglary.

Robbery charges in Pennsylvania

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania can file robbery charges in the first, second or third degree. While the severity of theft and burglary charges is based on the value of the items stolen, robberies are prosecuted based on the degree of violence involved. This means that a suspect accused of threatening to shoot their victim will be dealt with more severely than a defendant who threatened to throw or threw a punch. Prosecutors also consider the state of mind of the victim and whether or not they legitimately feared for their safety.


Anybody convicted of robbery in Pennsylvania can expect to spend several years behind bars. However, prosecutors have some discretion in these matters and could agree to take a more lenient approach during plea negotiations with criminal defense attorneys. The penalties for the various degrees of robbery in Pennsylvania are:

  • Robbery in the third degree is less serious and is usually charged when the victim suffered no injuries, but it is still a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to seven years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Robbery in the second degree is charged when the victim is hurt even if their injuries are not serious. Individuals convicted of second-degree robbery face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Robbery in the first degree is the most serious robbery charge and is reserved for defendants who inflict serious bodily harm. It carries a fine of up to $25,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Timing is crucial

In order to be charged with robbery, the violent act the defendant is accused of committing or the threat of violence they are alleged to have made must take place at the same time as the alleged theft. If the defendant became embroiled in a physical altercation with the victim as they tried to make their escape, they would likely face charges of theft and assault rather than robbery.