Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog


Robbery is a special form of theft. It is common for someone to state that they were “robbed” when it may not entirely be an accurate description in the eyes of the law. It is important to determine whether an individual’s action is, in fact, robbery because it is a serious offense with the potential for significant punishment.

Defining Robbery

The common law definition of robbery is larceny from a person through the use of force. Larceny is the illegal taking of property from another person. Therefore, larceny is a lesser offense than robbery (because there is a lack of force involved). “From a person” is defined as being both from a person who is in actual, physical possession of property and from a person who has control over property, but does not physically possess it. An example of a person with control, but not physical possession, is a store clerk who is forced to relinquish the money in the cash register.

The important element is force. Without force, the offense is not robbery. “By force” is defined as the use of violence, the threat of violence, or the use of intimidation. It is important to note that physical contact does not need to occur. If actual force is used, it does not need to be shown that the victim had any fear. Additionally, the opposite is true: if a victim has fear, no actual force is required.

An individual faces up to ten years in prison for assaulting, without a dangerous weapon, another person with the intent to rob or steal from that person. A more serious offense, known as armed robbery, occurs when an individual assaults and robs another person while in the possession of a dangerous weapon. This also includes stealing and taking money or other property from another person when that offense is considered larceny. The penalties for robbery may be a prison term of any length or a life term. If the accused person was wearing a mask or otherwise was disguised during the robbery, there is a five-year minimum sentence. There is also a minimum five-year sentence if the accused person had a firearm, shotgun, rifle, machine gun, or assault weapon.

Massachusetts has a law specifically designed to more severely punish individuals who commit robbery on people 60 years of age and older. An individual who commits robbery without a dangerous weapon, but through the use of force and violence, or by assault on a person over 60 years old faces a prison term of many years, including the potential for a life sentence.

Protect Your Rights


If you have been charged with robbery, you face serious consequences, but it does not mean that you cannot defend yourself. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office a 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can help.