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Understanding Criminal Law Concepts

People tend to confuse robbery and stealing because both delinquencies involve the unlawful taking of another person’s property. The difference between these crimes is articulated in their definitions, although the two share several attributes. The term “stealing” is applied when one’s property is taken from them without their consent, usually in their absence (Samaha, 2017). For instance, a person who takes another person’s property without seeking the owner’s approval is deemed to have stolen. In essence, stealing is characterized by the intent to deprive the owner of the possession and use of physical or tangible property, as is the case with shoplifting.

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On the other hand, robbery entails much more than just taking someone’s belongings without their permission, as it involves the threat to, or even the actual use, of violence. Samaha (2017) posits that robbery involves taking another person’s property forcefully, usually in the owner or custodian’s presence. An incident in which armed persons force a banker to open the vault is a perfect example of robbery. Notably, the use or threat of violence is a major characteristic of robbery, much as there might not be any physical injuries sustained. A person whose property is taken away after being threatened with violence is considered to have been robbed.

Treason Versus Espionage

People also find it difficult to distinguish between treason and espionage, as these two crimes are closely related. A review of the definitions gives a glimpse into their similarities and differences. According to Samaha (2017), treason refers to the betrayal of one’s country, which can be manifested through various acts, such as the attempt to overthrow the government or conspiracy with enemies against the sovereign. On the other hand, espionage is the crime of spying with the intent of obtaining secret information. For instance, a government employee who obtains confidential information, especially that which should be confiscated within particular quotas, commits espionage. Notably, espionage doubles as treason if the unlawfully accessed information is used against the government. Hence, the two crimes can occur independently or jointly, depending on the prevailing circumstances and motive of the unauthorized access to confidential information.

Anti-terrorism Laws

Laws within jurisdictional and international levels are often subject to contention, which leads to reviews and amendments in some cases. This is the case with the USA Patriot Act (2001), which lists the facilitation and provision of material support or resources to terrorist groups as an anti-terrorism crime. Particularly, the Act outlaws the attempts to conspire to provide material support and resources to terrorists, whether in aid of an impending attack or to facilitate an escape, commits “a federal crime of terrorism.” Further, the Act states that anyone providing material support and resources to a foreign terror group engages in terrorism. The use of the phrase “material support or resources” makes the law vague, much as it is also inconsistent with the Constitutional guarantees of freedoms of expression and association.

The anti-terrorism law is essentially not succinct about the referred nature of resources, considering that people may facilitate both tangible or intangible support to terror groups. Besides, terrorist groups may masquerade as welfare groups pursuing different objectives to benefit from charity organizations, a situation not captured in the Act. Hence, the legislation is imprecise, as it does not identify or define important details of what constitutes the unacceptable conduct of supporting terrorism.


Samaha, J. (2017). Criminal law (12th ed.). Cengage Learning.

USA Patriotic Act, Publ. L. No. 107-56, (2001). Web.

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