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Is purse snatching considered robbery?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Robbery is the use of force or intimidation to take another person’s property. This use of violence, or threat of violence, makes the offense more serious than ordinary theft. But some U.S. states also use the term robbery to define a crime committed in the direct presence of a victim aware of the theft, even if no violence is involved.

By that definition, snatching someone’s purse – a crime where the victim would surely be aware that someone is taking their purse – is robbery. But where does South Carolina stand in this case?

Purse snatching is its own offense

According to South Carolina law, purse snatching is a separate offense from robbery. It’s defined as the unlawful snatching of another’s purse or other thing of value, intending to deprive the owner of the item. The law adds that for an offense to constitute purse snatching, the circumstances of the theft mustn’t lead to grand larceny or robbery.

This means that the theft shouldn’t involve any form of force or threat of force. The theft shouldn’t also involve items valued over $2,000, or else the offense becomes grand larceny.

Penalties for purse snatching

Under the law, purse snatching is a misdemeanor. On conviction for the crime, a person faces up to three years of prison and $2,500 in fines.

However, if a court convicts a person for robbery instead because violence was involved, the penalty becomes up to 15 years of imprisonment, since robbery is a felony.

If the court convicts the person of snatching something worth over $2,000, the offense becomes grand larceny, a felony. A conviction leads to a term of imprisonment dependent on the value of the item:

  • Value of the item is more than $2,000 but less than $10,000: Up to five years of prison time
  • Value of the item is more than $!0,000: Up to 10 years of prison time

A court may also order a person convicted of grand larceny to pay a fine.

In conclusion, purse snatching is its own crime – though it can become robbery or grand larceny, depending on certain circumstances. Those who face these charges should consider consulting a legal professional to understand their defense options in court, especially if their offense is being presented as a more serious crime.