In Florida, robbery by sudden snatching is a crime that involves a person takes the property from the victim’s person when the victim is aware of the taking. Robbery by sudden snatching is a serious charge as it involves the possibility of violence and fear by the victim. However, the charge itself does not require any more force than what is required to take the property, and it does not require the victim to resist. Robbery by sudden snatching is a third degree felony and one of the more serious ones.
In a recent Jacksonville, Florida case, the defendant reached into a vehicle and stole two phones that were on the dashboard. The victim was in the driver’s seat, but was not in actual possession of the phones at the time. It was alleged that the defendant made some contact with the victim as he grabbed the phones.
The criminal defense attorney argued that this could not be robbery by sudden snatching since the victim did not have the phones on him at the time. The jury found him guilty, but the conviction was reversed by the appellate court who noted that actual possession of the property by the victim was a requirement of that statute. If the defendant makes contact with the victim as he takes property that is not on the victim, that is not enough for a robbery by sudden snatching conviction.
The interesting thing is that there is a separate crime for just robbery that does include a defendant taking property from a victim that is on a person or in his/her custody. These phones being right next to the victim and in his vehicle would have likely been sufficient to establish property in the victim’s custody and a robbery conviction. And robbery is actually a more serious charge, a second degree felony. The state clearly made an error in the way they charged this case without understanding the requirements of the law. As a result, the robbery by sudden snatching conviction was reversed, there could be no robbery charge since the state does not get an opportunity to re-charge the defendant and the state was left with a very minor petit theft conviction.