Modern Statutory Modifications

Fundamentals of Criminal Law by Adam J. McKee

Robbery, historically rooted in forcible theft, has seen significant shifts in its statutory definitions and categorizations to reflect the multifaceted, evolving nature of contemporary offenses. The Model Penal Code (MPC) and various state codes, such as the Arkansas Code, provide nuanced insights into these modifications, elucidating the adaptations and distinct classifications that permeate modern robbery law.

Insight into the Model Penal Code (MPC)

A Glimpse into Robbery Definitions

The Model Penal Code, in its bid to standardize legal definitions and promote a unified legal approach, defines robbery as theft committed with the use or threat of immediate use of physical force upon another person (MPC § 222.1). This broad definition embraces various facets of robbery while highlighting the pivotal role of force or threat thereof in distinguishing it from mere theft.

Force and Fear: Intersecting Themes

While physical force is a quintessential element, the MPC allows for the inclusion of threats and intimidation within its robbery categorizations, underscoring the psychological facets of fear and coercion as legitimate forms of “force” in committing robbery offenses.

The Arkansas Code Example

Defining and Classifying Robbery

The Arkansas Code (§ 5-12-102) defines robbery as committing or threatening physical injury with the purpose of committing a theft. Furthermore, the code underscores the explicit or implicit threat and use of force, whether immediate or future, as integral to robbery offenses. The code also demarcates degrees of robbery, with aggravated robbery involving the representation of having a deadly weapon (§ 5-12-103).

Robbery and Related Offenses

The Arkansas Code illustrates the nuanced distinctions between robbery and related offenses, such as theft (§ 5-36-103) and burglary (§ 5-39-201), emphasizing the absence of the force element and direct interaction with the victim in these ancillary offenses.

Distinguishing Robbery from Related Offenses

Legal Interpretations of Purse Snatching

While colloquially termed “purse snatching,” legal codes often interpret such acts under broader categorizations, like theft or larceny. The delineation hinges on the absence or presence of force or threat. If a purse is surreptitiously removed without direct confrontation or threat, it might be categorized as theft, a less severe charge than robbery.

The Interplay of Force, Fear, and Confrontation

If, however, the act of purse snatching involves direct confrontation, threat, or force, such as physically wresting the purse from the victim, it potentially escalates to robbery under various legal codes, considering the integrality of force and intimidation in achieving the illicit gain.

Aggravated Robbery

In the carefully constructed framework of Arkansas Code Title 5, § 5-12-103 emerges as a notable statute, articulating the parameters that define aggravated robbery within the state’s legal purview. This statute, entwining legal specificity with moral and societal implications, doesn’t merely catalog legal definitions. It inherently envelops the varied scenarios and actions that propel a robbery into the more severely regarded classification of aggravated robbery.

Integrating Severity with Definition

The statute makes it explicit: aggravated robbery is instantiated when a perpetrator engages in robbery and, concurrent to that act, either arms themselves with a deadly weapon or presents the pretense of being so armed. Furthermore, the law encompasses situations where the perpetrator inflicts — or makes a concerted attempt to inflict — death or serious physical injury upon another individual.

Evaluating Moral and Societal Implications

Such distinctions within the statute don’t solely serve as legal markers but also evoke a deeper exploration into the moral and societal repugnances tethered to such acts. In delving into the specifics, the employment, or even the mere representation of employment, of a deadly weapon, not only augments the legal implications tied to the offense but resonates with an intrinsic societal and moral abhorrence towards acts that intertwine robbery with explicit violence or the threat thereof.

The Duality of Threat and Harm in Legal Categorization

Within § 5-12-103, the law doesn’t merely acknowledge the physical act of robbery. It attentively accommodates the exacerbated threat and tangible harm that are pronounced in instances of aggravated robbery. The statute, through its explicit categorizations and distinctions, seeks to proportionately mirror the elevated threat, potential societal impact, and moral gravity of the offense, ensuring a congruent, rigorous legal response to such acts.

Ensuring Proportional Legal Response

The specifications embedded within this statute present a holistic, proportionate legal framework, delineating aggravated robbery from its counterparts. This ensures that the legal, moral, and societal responses coalesce, converging into a unified, firm stance against such acts and safeguarding the integrity of the legal repercussions meted out in their wake.

Concluding Perspective

Modern statutory modifications, whether observed through the lens of the MPC or specific state codes like those of Arkansas, illustrate the intricate, nuanced tapestry of robbery law. These legal frameworks navigate the complexities introduced by diverse methodologies of committing robbery, varied degrees of force, and distinct related offenses like purse snatching. The nuanced statutory definitions and categorizations underscore the importance of accurately delineating robbery from other offenses, ensuring proportional and precise legal repercussions and safeguarding the integrity of legal processes and judications.


  • Model Penal Code (1985). § 222.1. American Law Institute.
  • Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-12-102. FindLaw.
  • Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-12-103. FindLaw.
  • Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-36-103. FindLaw.
  • Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-39-201. FindLaw.
dification History

File Created:  07/17/2018

Last Modified:  10/03/2023

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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