State of New Jersey v. Lopez

The Facts

The defendant, Lopez, lured the victim, who had been wearing a considerable amount of jewelry, to the railroad tracks to rob him. Thereafter, Lopez attacked him with a karate chop to the throat, stole his necklace and left him to die.

Procedural History

The Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed the trial court’s stance that the robbery statute does not encompass afterthought robbery. The judgment convicting defendant on the lesser-included offense of third-degree theft from the person was reversed. The case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial.


In absence of malicious intent to steal indicating an act of theft or an attempt thereof, there is no robbery. Therefore, all robberies do have characteristics of theft but not all thefts can be regarded as robbery. The elements of robbery are: “(1) theft or attempted theft; (2) intimidating or assaultive conduct consisting of (a) inflicting bodily injury upon another or (b) threatening another with or purposely putting him in fear of immediate bodily injury or (c) committing or threatening immediately to commit any crime of the first or second degree, or (d) using force upon another person; (3) the intimidating or assaultive conduct must have occurred during the theft or attempted theft or in immediate flight after the theft or attempted theft; and (4) defendant must have acted purposely.”

The Issue

Whether the trial judge instructed the jury correctly to make no difference whether the intent to steal was formulated before the use of force or after it, so long as the intent to steal and the use or threat of force can be found as constituting a single transaction.

The Holding/Reasoning

The Supreme Court of New Jersey asserted that N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(a) does not tackle afterthought robbery. The court made, inter alia, following statements:

“1.Robbery, as an aggravated form of theft, is a specific intent crime as well. Without the intention to steal evidenced by a theft or attempted theft, there can be no robbery.

2. While the Legislature did broaden the application of the robbery statute in certain respects, there is no indication that it intended to alter the fundamental nature of robbery, the focus of which is the use of violence to effectuate a theft or flight therefrom.

3. …[A] person who has stolen goods and thereafter uses violence in flight is guilty of robbery–the intention to commit the theft generated the violence. That model simply does not work where a violent fracas occurs for reasons other than theft, and the perpetrator later happens to take property from the victim.”

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