The robbery offenses have simple yet loaded definitions, as well as potentially broad applications to varying factual scenarios. There are three degrees of robbery in New York; each charge, however, contains the common elements of larceny coupled with the use or threatened use of force.

Key Penal Law Provisions:

  • Robbery in the third degree, PL 160.05, a class D felony
  • Robbery in the second degree, PL 160.10, a class C felony
  • Robbery in the first degree, PL 160.15, a class B felony
  • Robbery, 160.00
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, PL 155.30(5), a class E felony
  • Larceny, PL 155.05(1)

Basic Robbery

Robbery in the third degree is the basic charge: “A person is guilty of robbery in the third degree when he forcibly steals property.” PL 160.05. The combination of the two basic elements, “stealing” (or larceny) and force, set forth a prima facie case of robbery in the third degree.


The use of the word “steals” here refers to the definition of larceny found in Article 155: “A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner thereof.” PL 155.05(1). Thus, in order to determine whether there has been a robbery, one must first study that definition (along with all applicable case law and interpretations of the terms in that definition) to determine whether there has been a larceny.

Force Element

Assuming that the larceny element is met, the question becomes one of whether the accused has “used or threatened the immediate use of physical force” and, if so, whether such force or threatened force was used to i) prevent or overcome resistance to the property being taken, ii) assist in the immediate flight after the taking, or iii) to compel the person with the property to “deliver up” the property or otherwise assist in the the larceny. PL 160.00.

First- and Second-Degree Robbery

The more serious robbery offenses integrate the third-degree robbery charge, but contain additional aggravating elements. For second-degree robbery, those are: i) being aided by another person actually present, PL 160.10(1), ii) causing physical injury to a person who is not a participant in the crime, PL 160.10(2)(a) iii) displaying or using a gun, or what appears to be a gun, PL 160.10(2)(b) or iv) the property being stolen is a motor vehicle, PL 160.10(2)(c). The latter subsection being what is commonly referred to as a “carjacking.” The most serious robbery charge is robbery in the first degree. PL 160.15. In addition to a robbery element, this offense may be charged if i) a non-participant suffers serious physical injury; ii) the accused is armed with a deadly weapon; iii) uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or iv) displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm. PL 160.15(4). The key distinction between first- and second-degree robbery charges involving firearm display is that the first-degree charge offers the defendant an affirmative defense having to do with the operability of the weapon at issue. PL 160.15(4).

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