Criminal Law Keyed to Johnson
State v. Sein
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The original 1979 robbery statute, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:15-1a, stated that a person was guilty of robbery if, while committing a theft, the person injured or threatened another. In 1981, the legislature amended the robbery statute providing that a person was guilty of robbery if, while committing a theft, the person inflicted bodily injury or used force upon another. Edythe Williams was carrying a purse under her arm and unlocking her car when Francisco Sein (Defendant) walked up behind Williams, reached across her, slid the purse out from under her arm, and ran away. There was no evidence that Defendant used any force other than the force used in sliding the purse out from under Williams’s arm. Defendant was later arrested and charged with robbery under the 1981 amendment of the N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:15-1a. At trial, Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the case should proceed only on the lesser-included offense of larceny from the person, defined as the unlawful taking of the moveable property of another with the intent to deprive the other of that property. Defendant contended that he had not used force against Williams’s person in taking the purse and that force was required for a robbery conviction. The State argued that the legislature had intended for the force used to remove a purse from a victim to be sufficient to constitute a robbery. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion, and the jury convicted Defendant of second-degree robbery. The court of appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant be convicted and resentenced for the lesser offense of larceny. The State appealed.
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