State v. Sein


Defendant reached across the victim as she was getting in her car and “just slid her pocketbook – which wasn’t very hard to do- from under her arm and took off.”  Evidence does not suggest that defendant used any more force than was required to steal the purse.  At trial defendant moved for acquittal regarding the robbery charge on the basis that the taking of the purse was not accompanied by any force required for robbery conviction.


“Whether the sudden snatching of a purse from the grasp of its own involves enough force to elevate the offense from theft from the person to robbery.”


“Robbery is a crime of the second degree, except that it is a crime of the first degree if in the course of committing the theft the actor attempts to kill anyone, or purposely inflicts or attempts to inflict serious bodily injury, or is armed with, or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon.”


No, acquittal sustained.  The majority view of the force required to elevate theft to robbery is that there is not enough force when the thief merely “snatches” the item with “suddenness” such that the owner cannot offer resistance.  “A simple snatching or sudden taking of property from the person of another does not of itself involve sufficient force to constitute robbery, thought the act may be robbery where a struggle ensures, the victim is injured in the taking , or the property is so attached to the victim’s person or clothing as to create resistance to the taking.”  There are also practical problems in applying another standard which seeks to establish the level of force.  Juries will be forced to become experts in physics if a variable standard of force becomes the majority rule.


All purse snatchings are robberies, regardless of force used.  If the rule were to become this, public policy in favor of deterrence would occur.  The majority opinion creates a rule such that any purse snatching will not constitute robbery, regardless of the force used.  Reliance on a “majority rule,” as is quoted in the majority opinion detracts from reliance on state statute.  There is no uniform “majority rule;” the court should focus on state statute and state common law.

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