What Constitutes the Crime of Robbery in Florida?

In Florida, robbery involves taking the property of another with the use of violence, force or placing the victim in fear of violence. If no firearm or other weapon is used, robbery is a second degree felony which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Of course, if a gun or other weapon is used to commit the robbery, the robbery charge can be much more serious.

Issues do arise in robbery cases surrounding when the force is used. In order for the crime of robbery to be committed, the force must be used “in the course of the taking” of the property. What exactly that means has not always been clear. As a result, the robbery law was changed to clarify what is “in the course of the taking.” The robbery statute defines that time period as the period prior to the taking, contemporaneous with the taking and subsequent to the taking. Read literally, that includes all of the time. The statue does narrow the time period down to require the force to be used in a continuous series of acts with the taking.

Obviously, if force is used immediately prior to the taking to put the suspect in a better position to take the property, if force is used as the suspect takes the property and if force is used immediately after the taking in order to get away with the property, the state will have a stronger robbery case. However, if some time elapses between the force and the taking, or the taking and the force, the incident is less likely to be a robbery.

Additionally, if the suspect abandons the property before he/she uses force, the case for a robbery is much weaker. For instance, assume the suspect is in a store, conceals an item in his jacket and proceeds to leave the store without making an effort to pay. The store security sees him walking out of the store and yells for him to stop. The suspect drops the item and runs out of the store. The security officer follows him, and the suspect throws the security office down to get away. In this scenario, it would likely be a robbery if the suspect still had the stolen property because he used force immediately after the taking in order to get away. However, since the suspect dropped and abandoned the property, this likely would not be a robbery since abandonment of the property prior to using force is a defense to robbery.

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