The term "robbery" is often used interchangeably with "theft." For instance, someone might tell a story of their wallet being stolen and say that they were robbed. Technically, using "robbery" in place of "theft" is not correct, as the two offenses are not the same. The elements of each are different, and a person faces distinct charges and penalties if they are accused and convicted of one crime or the other.

In this blog, we'll explore the differences between robbery and theft.

How Is Theft Defined in Iowa?

Generally, theft occurs when a person takes someone else's property without consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of the object.

Under Iowa Code 714.1, several types of conduct fall under this general definition of theft, including:

  • Misappropriating someone else's property
  • Using deception to obtain property, labor, or services
  • Receiving property known to be stolen
  • Destroying property to defraud the secured party
  • Using a check to obtain goods or services knowing there aren't enough funds in the account to cover the purchase
  • Making an unauthorized connection to obtain gas, electricity, water, or cable television
  • Accessing a computer system or network to obtain information or property
  • Using rental equipment or property and not intending to return the property

In Iowa, theft is charged in the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree. The degree depends on the value of the item taken. For instance, it's a first-degree theft crime to deprive a person of property worth more than $10,000. It's a fifth-degree theft crime to take property valued at $200 or less.

Theft ranges from a class "C" felony (first-degree theft) to a simple misdemeanor (fifth-degree theft).

How Is Robbery Defined?

Theft can be thought of as an umbrella term for offenses that involve depriving someone of property. Robbery sits under that umbrella.

Robbery is considered a more serious offense than theft because it involves violent actions to complete the crime.

Iowa Code 711.1 defines robbery as the intent to commit theft while engaging in any of the following:

  • Assault
  • Threatening immediate serious injury or making the alleged victim fear such a result
  • Threatening to commit a forcible felony, including:
    • Felonious child endangerment
    • Assault
    • Murder
    • Sexual abuse
    • Kidnapping
    • Robbery
    • Human trafficking
    • First-degree arson
    • First-degree burglary

In Iowa, there are two degrees of robbery: first and second. The former is considered more serious than the latter. First-degree robbery occurs when someone causes or attempts to cause serious injury or has a deadly weapon on them at the time of the offense. It's a class "B" felony. Robbery involving any other type of violence not defined as first-degree is considered second-degree robbery, which is a class "C" felony.

Example of Theft vs. Robbery

To help better understand the difference between theft and robbery, it may be useful to provide an example. Suppose Josh is out one day and sees a group of teens with a drone. Wanting the drone for himself, he waits until the group isn't looking and takes it. In this case, Josh may be charged with theft.

Now, let's say instead of waiting for an opportunity to take the drone without being spotted by the group, Josh points a gun at them and threatens to shoot unless they give him the drone. His conduct may now be charged as robbery.

If you were acused of a theft crime in Iowa City or Eastern Iowa, schedule a consultation with Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger by calling (319) 499-5524 or submitting an online contact form. We're ready to deliver the defense you need.