UPDATED: May 16, 2012
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Robbery is stealing something from another person, with force, fear, or by threat. Robbery not only involves a personal encounter with someone else, but also the threat of, or use of force or violence;. This is what differentiates robbery from theft and burglary.
Robbery is defined slightly differently from state to state. Generally speaking, in order to prevail on robbery charges, a prosecutor must show that the individual intended to take, and did take property that was not his; the property was taken in the immediate presence of the person; the property was taken against the person’s will; and fear or force was used in taking the property.
Elevated Robbery Charges
If the robber has a weapon, whether or not used, some states jump a simple robbery to an armed robbery, or an aggravated robbery charge. Armed robbery charges are generally brought against an individual suspected of committing a robbery with a non-life threatening weapon. Aggravated robbery charges are generally brought against an individual suspected of committing a robbery with a deadly weapon.
There are varying degrees of robbery recognized in some states. “Degree” relates to the amount of force or threat of force used in the robbery. For example, first degree robbery would be analogous to aggravated robbery, or use of a deadly weapon. A very common example of first degree robbery is a gunpoint holdup of a store clerk at a convenience store. Other robberies are categorized as second-degree or third degree.
Further, since the crime of robbery is generally defined to include the threat of force as an element, a person can be charged with aggravated, armed, or first degree robbery even if the weapon is fake. In other words, as long as the person being robbed believes that the individual committing the robbery has a real gun, the individual can be charged with heightened robbery charges even if the “gun” turns out to be a toy..
Defenses to Robbery Charges
There are many available defenses to an individual charged with robbery. The defense of mistaken identity or false accusation is a commonly used defense when the individual is wrongfully charged. Since robbers often wear masks or otherwise conceal their identity when they commit a robbery, it can be hard to identify the right person, and mistakes can easily be made.
Claim of right is another defense used against robbery charges. This defense is used when the person suspected of committing a robbery had a good faith belief that the property he took was his. For example, let's say an individual had his leather jacket stolen at school, and a day later sees another student wearing a similar leather jacket. Angered by the sight of what he believes to be his stolen leather jacket, the individual punches the person in the face, and takes the jacket. If the individual is later charged with robbery, he will assert the defense that he had a good faith belief that he had claim of right over the property.
In some cases, robbery charges can be reduced to simple theft charges if the defendant can show that no force or threat of force was used. If force or threat of force was clearly used, an individual can defend against robbery charges if he can show that he used force for purposes of self-defense or duress. The defense of duress is used when the individual charged with robbery can show that he only committed the robbery because someone else forced him to do it.
Penalties for Robbery Convictions
Robbery,including all heightened robbery charges, is generally prosecuted as a felony under state law and can mean up to several years in prison, hefty fines, and/or felony probation. A criminal conviction of first degree, armed, or aggravated robbery carries harsher, more severe consequences for the offender.
Given the seriousness of the criminal charge with the possibility of a lengthy jail time and huge fines, it makes sense to consult with a good defense lawyer at once.