In legal terms, robbery refers to a specific form of felony theft. It is defined as the taking of property from another person by the use of force, intimidation, and/or the threat of force. This is why the crime is sometimes referred to as “larceny by threat or force.”

Some states have determined that the use or threat of force does not need to be directed at the intended victim in order for the crime to be considered robbery. However, the threat must be immediate, and the crime must be committed while in the presence of the victim.

If a robbery is committed with the use of a firearm or other deadly weapon, it may be considered armed robbery, resulting in a harsher penalty for the defendant. Armed robbery is a crime that is committed against a person, and can range in seriousness from a misdemeanor to a first-degree grand larceny charge. Armed robbery specifically is the act of stealing from someone by using a weapon. As such, it is the basic crime of robbery with a weapon component. In order to be charged with armed robbery, all of the elements of robbery must be proven.

It is important to note that while robbery is frequently confused with the crime of burglary, they are not actually the same thing. Burglary involves the breaking and entering of a home, or other building, with the intent to commit a felony while inside.

The defining differences between the two are the “breaking and entering” element, as well as the fact that burglary does not necessarily involve the use or threat of force.

What Are The Elements Of Robbery?

The specific elements of what would constitute robbery differs from state to state. Robbery is defined as “the taking and carrying away of the personal property of another, from their possession in their presence, against their will, by force.” However, there are some general elements of robbery that are stated in the legal definition of the crime:

  • The Taking And Carrying Away: What this means is that the thief actually obtained an item from the person’s possession or presence, and seized it. If the thief was only successful at intimidating the victim, and not taking anything, this would only be an attempted armed robbery. Attempted armed robbery is considered to be a lesser offense; as such, this would be used as a defense in an attempt at getting the thief a shorter sentence;
  • Of The Personal Property Of Another: Simply put, you can not steal your own property from another person. As such, the property that was said to be stolen must belong to someone other than the thief;
  • From Their Possession Or In Their Presence: In order for the crime to be considered a robbery, and not a burglary, the property must have been stolen in front of or directly off of the victim. What this means is that if the thief broke into someone’s home and they did not know they were there, it would be considered a burglary. Stealing an item in the presence and by force is what specifically makes this crime a robbery;
  • Against Their Will: Very simply put, this means that the victim did not give consent for the thief to take their property; and
  • By Force: Force can be defined as any form of apprehension, actual violence, or threat of force.

What Is The Merger Doctrine In Terms Of Armed Robbery?

When a crime such as armed robbery is committed, other crimes such as assault and battery are simultaneously committed. The merger doctrine is what keeps you from being charged with all three crimes; essentially, the merger doctrine allows crimes that have the same elements to merge with one another. As a result, you will only be charged with crimes that have different components.

An example of this would be how assault elements are to intentionally place someone in fear, while battery elements are to intentionally cause a harmful or offensive touching. The first few elements of armed robbery are to intentionally place someone in fear by force; the elements of both assault and battery are within the elements of armed robbery. As such, they merge into the single crime of armed robbery. You will now be charged with the greater of the three offenses, armed robbery, and not assault and battery.

How Is Armed Robbery Classified? Does The Type Of Weapon Matter?

Armed robbery may be a first-degree felony, such as when the victim was beaten with life-threatening injuries. Armed robbery may also be reduced to a third-degree felony, if the victim was not injured. A felony sentence is generally paired with a prison sentence and a criminal fine, with the charges attaching to your criminal record. Additionally, when a crime is committed using a deadly weapon, the privileges to carry a firearm could be revoked.

The classification of armed robbery is a mitigating circumstance to help lighten your sentence. As such, depending on your state’s laws, the type of weapon that was used in an armed robbery could be considered when classifying the felony.

Because state laws vary, the type of weapon that was used in an armed robbery may change the charges that you are facing. In some states the mere fact that a weapon was used will elevate the sentence. An example of this would be how in many states, it does not matter if the gun that was used was real or a toy; the fact that the victims thought they were being robbed with a gun is enough to constitute an armed robbery charge.

Finally, the weapon that was being used to commission the crime does not have to be a gun in order to constitute an armed robbery charge. However, if something less than a deadly weapon is used to commit the crime, this could reduce the defendant’s sentence.

Are There Any Defenses To An Armed Robbery Charge?

It is important to note that, in general, armed robbery does not necessarily have any defenses available. However, there are mitigating circumstances that could reduce the amount of time spent in prison. Mitigating circumstances are factors that help lighten the charges, but do not necessarily justify the criminal activity. These are available on a case by case basis and will not always apply; meaning, they are not guaranteed. Additionally, mitigating circumstances depend on the laws of the state in which the crime was committed.

To reiterate, the merger doctrine is a mitigating circumstance that is offered when the crimes committed share the same elements. The classification of a first, second, or third-degree felony for the crime will also help to lighten the defendant’s sentence.

Do I Need An Attorney For Armed Robbery Charges?

If you are being charged with armed robbery, you will need to consult with an area criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced and local criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights and legal options according to your state’s specific robbery laws, and will represent you in court as needed.

Your criminal defense lawyer can determine whether any legal defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case. Additionally, working with an attorney may increase your chances of having your sentence reduced.