The term robbery refers to a type of theft crime in which a person’s property is stolen through physical force, the threat of force, or intimidation. Robbery is a felony and is identified by the intent to permanently deprive another person of their property. Some states dictate that the use or threat of force need not be directed at the intended victim in order for the theft to be considered robbery. Additionally, robbery committed with a firearm or other weapon may constitute armed robbery, which often comes with more severe legal penalties.
Each state varies on its laws and statutes regarding the elements of robbery. In general, the following must be true in order for a theft crime to be considered a robbery:
- The taking and carrying away of;
- The personal property belonging to another person;
- From their possession or in their presence;
- Against their will;
- By force, fear, violence, intimidation, or threat of force.
Importance is placed on the use of force when defining robbery because it is what distinguishes robbery from other theft crimes. Although a gun is most commonly thought of, some other things that constitute weapons or use of force in this context include:
- A knife;
- A baseball bat;
- Explosives; and
- Fake or toy weapons, if they were treated the same as a real weapon under the circumstances.
Due to the violent nature of this particular theft crime, most states consider robbery to be a serious crime and treat it as such. However, a person accused of robbery does have some legal defenses they may be able to utilize, depending on the specific circumstances of their case. These defenses may include:
- Burden of Proof: The prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant not only committed the crime, but did so beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, every element of the charge, such as the taking away of a person’s property by force, must be proven by the prosecution;
- Lack of Evidence: Related to the burden of proof, there must also be adequate evidence that robbery was committed in order to prosecute a defendant for robbery. If the prosecution cannot provide reliable evidence, such as proof of the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the robbery, the defendant may not be found guilty;
- Innocence: A witness speaking to the defendant’s innocence may undermine the prosecution’s case. Using the previously mentioned example, if the robbery occurred at 3:20 PM but the defendant’s alibi is that they were grocery shopping at that time, and a witness can verify that alibi, the defendant may be found innocent of robbery charges;
- Intoxication: Intoxication is considered to be an affirmative defense, or a defense where one of the elements of robbery cannot be proven. If the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, as in without their knowledge or consent, this may be a valid defense. However, if they were voluntarily intoxicated, they may still be able to argue for a lesser charge because did not have the necessary intent to commit the robbery;
- Duress: This defense would be usable if the defendant was forced by threat of death or bodily injury to commit the robbery. Proving duress may prove to be difficult because a defendant who could have avoided committing the robbery without risking death or bodily injury will not be able to succeed with this defense; and
- True Owner: This defense is only achievable if the defendant can prove that they believed they were the true owner of the personal property that they took.
As robbery is classified as a felony, it is sentenced according to degrees. For example, a robbery that resulted in someone’s injury will likely be sentenced as a first degree felony. In comparison, a robbery that did not result in injury will likely be sentenced as a second degree felony.
When determining how to punish a robbery conviction, some of the following factors are considered:
- The use of a firearm or other weapon;
- Previous criminal record, specifically prior robbery charges;
- Whether the defendant is currently on probation;
- What property was stolen, and the value of that property; and
- The number of accomplices involved in the crime, such as getaway drivers or lookouts.
Legal consequences for being convicted of robbery include:
- Imprisonment ranging from one year to life, depending on the specifics of the case;
- Fines and court fees; and
- Court ordered educational or rehabilitating programs.
If you are facing robbery charges, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding theft and robbery. Further, an attorney can determine if there are any defenses available to your case. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court at any necessary court hearings.