In a legal context, the term “robbery” is generally defined as a type of criminal offense. It Involves an intentional taking or an intentional attempt to take an item of value by force or threat of force from another individual. The exact definition, elements to prove, and penalties for the crime of robbery will vary by jurisdiction. 

There are also different kinds of robbery charges, like armed robbery or carjacking, and varying degrees of robbery as well (e.g., robbery in the first degree).

Another category of robbery charges is called “strong arm robbery”. Strong arm robbery, also known as common law robbery, is a specific type of larceny wherein the defendant does not use a deadly weapon to commit the criminal offense. Instead, the defendant will either use intimidation tactics, a threat of force, or actual force to intentionally deprive a victim of their property. In many cases, a defendant may also use personal weapons (e.g., hands, feet, etc.). 

For instance, suppose a defendant was stealing from a store and hiding the contraband in their pockets. A security guard employed by the store takes notice and approaches the defendant. Realizing they are caught, the defendant punches the security guard and runs away. If the defendant is apprehended, they can be charged with the crime of strong arm robbery since they used a personal weapon to intentionally deprive the store of its property.

Additionally, in some jurisdictions, a nondeadly weapon may be included as part of the state law definition. However, most strong robbery cases do not involve a weapon, but rather a threat of possession of a weapon. 

For example, a defendant who attempts to rob a bank may threaten a teller by saying they have a gun when in reality they do not. The defendant’s statement acts as a “threat of force” to get the bank teller to comply with their demands (e.g., “Give me cash, or I will shoot.”). 

One last thing to note about strong arm robbery offenses is that the level of threat may increase a defendant’s punishment if they are convicted. For instance, threatening, “I will kill you” versus “I will punch you”, may be weighed differently in certain jurisdictions. 

Regardless, strong arm robbery is a very serious crime and is only a step below armed robbery. Depending on the facts of a case, strong arm robbery charges may even be elevated to armed robbery or a higher degree of robbery. Elevated charges can result in severe penalties. Thus, if you are facing charges for strong arm robbery, you should contact a criminal defense attorney for further legal assistance as soon as possible.

Does Strong Arm Robbery Require the Use of a Gun?

As previously mentioned, strong arm robbery does not require the use of a weapon. Although some states may include the use of a nondeadly weapon in their state laws, the standard legal definition only requires the threat of force or actual force. Thus, strong arm robbery may be committed by brandishing anything from a rock to a fist, or by threatening to inflict bodily harm.

Also, if a defendant threatens their victim by saying or indicating they have a weapon, but in fact they do not, they can still be charged for committing strong arm robbery. However, if the defendant threatens them with a weapon and their statement is true or they use the weapon to deprive the victim of their property, then they may be charged with the more serious crime of armed robbery. 

Lastly, in some jurisdictions, a defendant may also be convicted of armed robbery if they used a fake weapon, but the victim believed it was a real deadly weapon (e.g., a toy gun painted black).

What Is The Difference Between Armed Robbery vs. Strong Armed Robbery?

There are several major differences between the crimes of armed robbery vs strong armed robbery. As discussed above, strong armed robbery involves a threat of force or actual force to deprive someone of their property. The defendant does not necessarily need to use a weapon to be charged and convicted of this crime. 

If the defendant does use a weapon to carry out this offense, however, that weapon can only be a personal weapon (e.g., fist, foot, etc.) or a nondeadly weapon (e.g., rock), or else they will be charged with the more serious crime of armed robbery. 

On the other hand, armed robbery does involve the use of a deadly weapon or pretend deadly weapon to intentionally deprive the victim of their property. Thus, a defendant who attempts to rob a bank with a realistic looking toy gun that would make a bank teller believe it is real, can be charged with the crime of armed robbery.

Depending on the state, a defendant who is convicted of armed robbery will be subjected to much harsher penalties than a defendant who is charged with the lesser offense of strong armed robbery.

What if the Property Taken is not Technically in the Victim’s Possession?

In most instances, a victim does not technically need to be in possession of or physically holding the property at the time they are deprived of it for it to be considered strong arm robbery. The property only has to be close enough to the victim that they could reach out and touch it or within a range that they could gain control of it. 

Basically, if the property is situated in a spot where the defendant would feel the need to use violence or intimidation to take it from the victim, then it would satisfy the “force” or “threat” element of the crime. In contrast, if the property is not technically in the possession of the victim, then it will not be considered strong arm robbery. Remember, strong arm robbery requires the use of force. 

Thus, if a victim provided voluntary consent to use the property or was not in possession of the property at the time it was stolen, then the defendant may only be charged with theft. Again, the key to this crime is that the defendant must have used force or intimidation tactics to take the property.

As an example, suppose a person leaves their backpack in a public restroom. The defendant enters the now empty restroom, spots the backpack, and takes it. Since the defendant did not have to use force or threats to deprive the person of their backpack, their actions would only constitute theft, not strong arm robbery.

What if the Property is Dropped Right After It is Taken?

Strong arm robbery requires a taking and carrying away of property. If a defendant successfully deprives the victim of their property, even if it is only for a short time, they can still be charged with committing strong arm robbery. 

In other words, if the defendant snatches the item, takes one step away from the victim, and then drops the item, they can be held liable for this crime. 

What are the Penalties for Strong Arm Robbery?  

In most cases, strong arm robbery is a felony offense. Although the exact punishments for strong arm robbery convictions will vary by jurisdiction and by the facts of a specific case, they usually result in penalties reserved for felonies. Felony crimes typically lead to mandatory sentencing minimums, such as a set amount of time in prison or a set amount of criminal fines. 

Again, depending on the state and whether a nondeadly weapon was used in committing the offense, a defendant may receive a sentence that ranges anywhere from one year to up to twenty years of imprisonment. Criminal fines can also go as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars; especially, if a bank was the target of the crime.  

Thus, it is very important to review the laws of the jurisdiction hearing the case and to be aware of the kinds of punishments that a prosecutor is recommending for sentencing purposes. To get a clearer prediction for their individual case, a defendant should consult a local criminal defense attorney immediately who can provide legal advice.

Are there Any Criminal Defenses to Strong Arm Robbery Charges? 

Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding a particular matter, there may be several defenses available for a defendant accused of committing strong armed robbery. Some of the more common defenses to strong arm robbery include: 

  • Lack of evidence;
  • Intoxication; 
  • Duress;
  • Consent; 
  • Entrapment;
  • True ownership; and/or
  • Insufficient proof of the elements. 

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for a Strong Arm Robbery Charge? 

Strong arm robbery is a serious criminal offense that can lead to a prison sentence and criminal fines. Therefore, if you are facing charges for strong arm robbery, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain the potential outcomes of your case and can determine whether there are any defenses that you could potentially raise against the charges. 

Your attorney will also be able to provide representation in court or during plea deal negotiations with the prosecutor. Additionally, your attorney can request to have your sentence reduced or propose an alternative sentencing option.