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The theft statute thus includes purse-snatchings from the grasp of an owner, while the robbery statute includes purse-snatchings that involve some degree of force to wrest the object from the victim. The only way to reconcile the two statutes is to hold that robbery requires more force than that necessary merely to snatch the object.
Defendant, Francisco Sein, was arrested taking the victim's purse. He was charged with and convicted in a jury trial of robbery under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C: 15-1. He appealed to the intermediate appellate court on the grounds that he had not used force against the victim and therefore he had not violated the statute. The intermediate court reversed the conviction and remanded for entry and sentencing on a conviction of theft. The state, plaintiff-appellant, appealed the judgment of the Superior Court, Appellate Division which reversed the defendant's conviction for robbery under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:15-1 and remanded for the entry of an amended judgment of conviction for theft and for resentencing for that offense. On appeal, the court affirmed.
Was the defendant guilty of robbery?
No. The defendant was guilty of theft.
The Court held that in order for a defendant to be convicted of robbery there had to be a showing of force against the victim. It held that taking the purse without any resistance on the part of the victim or any wresting away of the purse by the defendant did not constitute force. The court then concluded that since there is no evidence that the defendant's conduct involved the type of force sufficient to elevate the theft to a robbery under N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1a(1), the judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed.