A person threatens you with a knife and asks for your money. Is that person guilty of robbery or extortion? Or is it both? A study discusses a case which illustrates the difference between robbery and extortion.
On March 11, 1974, George Woods was charged with robbery in the second degree, grand larceny in the second degree, grand larceny in the third degree and burglary in the third degree. He was found guilty by the Trial Court of 2nd degree robbery. Unhappy with the criminal verdict, Woods appealed to the Court of Appeals for a review of the case.
Here are the facts, as told by reports. On August 2, 1972, Woods and his companion, who was not brought to court, approached a woman on the street. They told her that they had found some money and that they would share it with her if she gave them some money first to show that she was trustworthy. During the trial, the woman said that Woods told her to give them $2,500 as proof that she wouldn’t tell anybody and also to guarantee her safety.
The woman then allowed Woods and his companion to come with her to her apartment and get her passbook. They then went to the bank where she withdrew $2,500. She gave this to the two men. She said that did not do this because she wanted to accept the “found money” but because she was afraid that the two men would harm her if she did not give them the money.
After hearing both sides, the Trial Court said that the charge should have been larceny by extortion but that it decided to drop the larceny charges for “lack of pleading”. It then judged Woods guilty of 2nd degree robbery.
According to our info, larceny is the illegal taking of another person’s property. Extortion is threatening another person with harm in order to take the person’s property.
After reviewing the case, the Court of Appeals however, did not agree with the Trial Court’s decision. It believed that Woods did not commit larceny by extortion, but the more common larceny by trickery. Furthermore, it claimed that the charges against Woods was proof of this.
The Trial Court’s decision to find Woods not guilty of larceny and burglary left only the charge of 2nd degree robbery. According to our info, robbery is stealing by force. Second degree robbery includes robbery with the help of another person. This is different from the original definition of second degree robbery.
In the old Penal Law, 2nd degree robbery was an act that threatened injury to a person or his property. If, for example, Person A asked money from Person B and threatened to burn Person B’s house if he did not give him money, Person A would be guilty of both 2nd degree robbery and extortion. Furthermore, the old Penal Law specified that the threat of injury could be a future one.
The new Penal Law however changes this. It distinguishes between extortion and robbery by adding the statement of “immediate harm” in the definition of 2nd degree robbery. Threats of future harm then fall under extortion and not 2nd degree robbery.
Reports also state that the Court of Appeals believed that since the Trial Court had dropped the charges of larceny, there could be no robbery. (Our expert explains that robbery is larceny with the use of force. No larceny, no robbery.) Furthermore, given the facts of the trial alone, it did not believe that a criminal act of robbery had occurred.
It is very difficult to be in a situation where you are accused of doing something that you did not do. It is also difficult to watch your loved ones in that sort of situation. Stephen Bilkis & Associates, together with its excellent team of New York Robbery Lawyers, can give you the guidance and support you need.
You can find them in their office in Corona, New York, or in their other conveniently located offices around New York.