Statute

This is a common law offense.

Elements

A person guilty of this offense(1) commits larceny(2) from the person or from the person’s presence(3) by violence or intimidation.

Punishment

Class G felony. G.S. 14-87.1.

Notes

Generally. Elements (1) and (2) constitute a felonious larceny. See “Felony Larceny” in Chapter 13 (Larceny, Possession of Stolen Goods, Embezzlement, and Related Offenses). Thus, common law robbery is simply a felonious larceny (from the person or from the person’s presence) committed by violence or intimidation.

Element (1). See the notes on Elements (1) through (7) to “Misdemeanor Larceny” in Chapter 13 (Larceny, Possession of Stolen Goods, Embezzlement, and Related Offenses). As discussed in those notes, a taking occurs when the defendant severs the property from the owner’s possession. See the note on Element (1) to “Misdemeanor Larceny.” The evidence was sufficient to show that a taking occurred in a robbery case when the defendant pressed a handgun to the victim’s stomach, grabbed her purse from the seat of her car, and then threw it back on the seat when the victim said it contained very little money. State v. Patterson, 182 N.C. App. 102, 107 (2007) (the jury could reasonably find that the defendant exercised complete control over the purse, even if only for a brief moment).

Element (2). This element is similar to Element (8)(b) to “Felony Larceny,” discussed in Chapter 13 (Larceny, Possession of Stolen Goods, Embezzlement, and Related Offenses). Examples of takings from the person in robbery cases include taking (1) a bag of groceries that the robber forced the victim to set down on the sidewalk, State v. Dunn, 26 N.C. App. 475 (1975); and (2) marijuana that the victim had placed in a vase on a porch for safekeeping, while the victim was being assaulted on the premises, State v. Shaw, 164 N.C. App. 723 (2004).

A homicide victim can be a person within the meaning of this offense, provided the death and the taking form a continuous chain of events. State v. Davis, 325 N.C. 607 (1989); State v. Earwood, 155 N.C. App. 698 (2003); see also State v. McHone, 174 N.C. App. 289 (2005).

A taking can be from the person even if the victim flees before the property is taken, provided that the use of force or intimidation and the taking are part of a continuous transaction. State v. Tuck, 173 N.C. App. 61, 66–68 (2005) (sustaining a conviction when the defendant took money from a store after pointing a gun at the employee, causing the employee to flee; discussing other cases on point); State v. Curry, ___ N.C. App. ___, 692 S.E.2d 129, 143 (2010) (citing Tuck).

Element (3). The State need not prove both violence and intimidation; either is sufficient. State v. Carter, 186 N.C. App. 259, 262 (2007). The violence or intimidation must induce the victim to part with his or her property. State v. Parker, 322 N.C. 559, 566–67 (1988) (element not satisfied); Carter, 186 N.C. App. at 263 (no robbery occurred when a battery did not induce the victim to part with the property; when the victim was sprayed with an unidentifiable substance, he felt the back of his head to see what it was and turned around to find the defendant running away with the money; “[c]ertainly, spraying someone with pepper spray, even on the back of the head, is a use of force, but in this instance that force did not instill the fear necessary such that defendant’s obtaining the money could be considered common law robbery”). It includes injuring or immobilizing the victim so that the victim cannot protect his or her property. It also includes conduct that occurs after the larceny begins and when the victim resists. See the note entitled “Timing of elements” to “Armed Robbery,” below. However, a robbery is not committed if the only force used is to obtain possession of the property, such as when a defendant snatches a purse from a person’s shoulder. State v. Robertson, 138 N.C. App. 506 (2000). The purse snatching example contrasts with one where the defendant snatches a necklace that has been fastened around the victim’s neck, causing the necklace to break in the process; in the necklace snatching situation there is sufficient actual force to constitute a robbery. State v. Harris, 186 N.C. App. 437, 440–42 (2007) (distinguishing Robertson).

Actual violence is not required if the victim is intimidated, that is, put in fear of some immediate injury and thereby induced to part with his or her property. Robertson, 138 N.C. App. at 508. The intimidation need not involve a great degree of terror provided that it makes the victim apprehensive about his or her own physical safety. The intimidation was sufficient when three sailors in a car were surrounded by five men, without weapons or actual violence, who told them “[t]his is a shakedown” and then took money from the sailors’ pockets. State v. Sawyer, 224 N.C. 61 (1944). Intimidation also may occur when the robber asserts authority that he or she does not actually have, such as when the defendants, pretending to be police officers, “arrest” the victim, search the victim, and take the victim’s money. Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 348 (3d ed. 1982) (citing an out-of-state case involving these facts).

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant took money from a store clerk by means of violence or intimidation when the defendant hid his arm under his jacket in a manner suggesting that he had a gun and the clerk gave the defendant the money because he was afraid. State v. Elkins, ___ N.C. App. ___, 707 S.E.2d 744, 749–50 (2011) (distinguishing Parker, cited above, and finding the case analogous to State v. White, 142 N.C. App. 201 (2001) (the evidence was sufficient when the defendant handed a threatening note to store clerks implying that he had a gun, even though none of them saw a firearm)).

Timing of elements. See this note to “Armed Robbery,” below.

Attempt. Attempted common law robbery is a Class H felony. G.S. 14-2.5. See Chapter 5 (General Crimes) for a discussion of attempt.

There was sufficient evidence of attempted common law robbery when a defendant entered a store, kept his right hand in his pocket as if he had a gun (although he did not), threatened to hurt the storekeeper unless she put her money in a bag and gave it to him, but was apprehended by a customer before he could take the bag and leave. State v. Bailey, 4 N.C. App. 407 (1969).

Charging issues. For a discussion of charging issues in connection with robbery offenses, see Jessica Smith, The Criminal Indictment: Fatal Defect, Fatal Variance, and Amendment, Admin. of Just. Bull. No. 2008/03, UNC School of Government, July 2008) (online at www.sog.unc.edu/pubs/electronicversions/pdfs/aojb0803.pdf).

Doctrine of recent possession. The doctrine of recent possession applies in robbery cases. State v. Lee, ___ N.C. App. ___, 713 S.E.2d 174 (2011) (the trial judge properly instructed the jury in a robbery case on the doctrine of recent possession as to non-unique goods (cigarettes)). For a discussion of this doctrine, see this note to “Misdemeanor Larceny” in Chapter 13 (Larceny, Possession of Stolen Goods, Embezzlement, and Related Offenses).

Greater and lesser-included offenses. See this note to “Armed Robbery,” below.

Multiple convictions and punishments. If a robber intimidates two victims and takes personal property from each of them, the robber commits two robberies. State v. Beaty, 306 N.C. 491 (1982). If the robber intimidates several people at the same time and takes only their employer’s money from their control, only one robbery is committed. State v. Ballard, 280 N.C. 479 (1972); State v. Potter, 285 N.C. 238 (1974). Thus, for example, an armed robbery of a bank’s money from two bank tellers supported only one armed robbery conviction. State v. Becton, 163 N.C. App. 592 (2004). If the robber intimidates only one employee and takes the money of that employee and the money of the employer, only one robbery is committed. Beaty, 306 N.C. 491; State v. Bellamy, 172 N.C. App. 649 (2005).

A defendant may not be sentenced for both robbery and possession of stolen property taken during the robbery. State v. Moses, ___ N.C. App. ___, 698 S.E.2d 688, 696 (2010) (so concluding as a matter of legislative intent).

Related Offenses Not in This Chapter

See the various offenses in Chapter 13 (Larceny, Possession of Stolen Goods, Embezzlement, and Related Offenses). Train robbery. G.S. 14-88.

Supplement 

Notes

Element (2)

Add the following at the end of the first paragraph of this note:

; and (3) personal property from a victim who was forced by intruders to lie on the ground, State v. McLean, ___ N.C. App. ___, 796 S.E.2d 804, 808 (2017).

Element (3)

In a multi-count robbery case, there was sufficient evidence that victim Adrienne relinquished her property because of violence or intimidation; although Adrienne herself did not testify, evidence showed that she was a resident of premises where the robbery occurred, another victim heard her screaming during the intrusion, her face was injured, two witnesses testified that she had been beaten, and her personal belongings were taken. State v. Jones, 241 N.C. App. 132, 141 (2015).

Multiple convictions and punishments

Where the defendant attempted to rob two victims inside a residence, two charges were proper; the fact that only one residence was involved was irrelevant where the defendant demanded that each victim turn over his personal property. State v. Jastrow, 237 N.C. App. 325, 329–30 (2014).