Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Smash and Grab at King of Prussia Mall: Robbery or Burglary?

Even though it is a method of theft, it also sounds like it could be a brand new dance. Instead, the old smash and grab is a trick used to break into a car and grab the forgotten cell phone on the seat or the laptop on the floor.

Recently, three men walked into Tourneau Inc., a luxury watch store at the Kind of Prussia Mall, wearing masks and wielding a small sledgehammer, according to Philly.com. The security guard was threatened with the sledgehammer before it was used to smash the glass display cases, allowing the men to steal $477,000 worth of watches. All of this happening in less than 20 seconds.

This raises the issue of whether this was a burglary or a robbery.

A burglary occurs when you unlawfully enter a building with the intent to commit any crime inside. It used to be the case that a burglary charge would only stick if the perpetrator entered another person's residence at night to commit the crime. Now it doesn't matter what time of day or even whose house it is.

A robbery is when you take the property of another from them, in person, against their will, by violence, intimidation or threat of force. In other words, robbery is a theft accomplished by violence or the threat of violence.

Here, it is likely that there would not be a burglary charge. The burglary charge requires unlawful entry, which is hard to do when a store is open.

In order for this to be a robbery, there must have been the threat of violence before the theft of the goods. Since the security guard was threatened before the cases were smashed, there was enough threat to charge a robbery. Now, if a jury convicts on a robbery charge over a theft charge is a different question.

So a smash and grab on its own would likely just be a theft, but if you throw in some intimidation to the owners or supervisors of what you're stealing you'll bump yourself up to a felony robbery. Had the men not threatened the Tourneau security guard at the King of Prussia Mall, this could only have been a theft.

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