Armed Robbery

Robbery is an age-old crime, generally involving the taking of money or property from someone by force or even fear of violence. A common example could include someone holding up a bank or convenience store, or assaulting someone on the street and taking their purse or wallet.

Defined under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 265, Section 17, armed robbery occurs when a person armed with a dangerous weapon who assaults and takes property from another person commits armed robbery.

What does the prosecution have to prove to convict for armed robbery?

The prosecution must prove the elements necessary for "armed robbery." These include:

  • being armed with a dangerous weapon
  • assaults another
  • robs, steals or takes from his person money or other property
  • which may be the subject of larceny

What counts as a dangerous weapon?

Any number of items can be considered a "dangerous weapon" in an armed robbery if they can cause serious injury, including guns, knives, automobiles, clubs. Some instruments can become dangerous, depending on how the assailant uses them, including stones, sticks, and even body parts. There are enhanced or mandatory minimum sentences If the weapon used is a firearm, shotgun, rifle, machine gun or assault rifle.

Can you be charged with robbery if you don't have a weapon?

Yes. In Massachusetts, even if someone does not have a dangerous weapon, but they tell the victim they have a weapon, they may be charged with armed robbery.

Additionally, Massachusetts law provides for a charge of robbery for stealing from a person by force, even if no dangerous weapon is involved. This law has enhanced penalties when the victim is someone 60 years of age or older.

See Massachusetts General Law Chapter 265, Section 19

What is considered "assault"?

Assault can include harming the victim by force, but it can also include simply putting fear of harm into the victim or threatening them.

How is robbery different from larceny?

Larceny and robbery are very similar, both involve taking another persons property, and intending to permanently deprive them of the use of their property. However, if force or threat of force is used, then the crime goes from larceny to robbery.

How are robbery and burglary different?

Although robbery and burglary are often confused, they are different crimes. They can both be considered theft crimes, along with larceny, extortion, and theft. However, burglary requires the unlawful entry into a structure to commit a felony or theft. Additionally, burglary can take place without a victim being present in the building. Whereas robbery requires the theft to be from a victim, and can take place inside or outside a building.

What are the penalties for armed robbery?

Robbery is prosecuted as a felony. The penalties for armed robbery will depend greatly on the facts involved. Even for a first time offense, conviction can lead to imprisonment in the state prison for life or any term of years.

Other factors which a judge may consider in determining the punishment include prior criminal history, facts surrounding the robbery, situation of the victim, or any other number of factors relevant to the case.

An individual may also face mandatory minimum jail times, depending on the facts of the situation. These include minimum sentencing if it is a second or third offense; if the victim is 60-years-old or older; if a gun was used in the crime (minimum jail time of 5 to 15 years); or if the robber was masked or disguised (minimum jail time of 5 to 10 years).

What are some possible defenses to a charge of robbery?

A prosecutor needs to prove all necessary elements to convict an individual for robbery. In some cases, a defense to robbery could include arguing that the defendant believed that the property taken actually belonged to them. Other defenses include claiming that the person charged was not the person who committed the robbery. An experienced criminal defense attorney will understand the best defenses to raise depending on the specific facts of each case.

However, charges of robbery or armed robbery are serious crimes with significant penalties. If facing a robbery charge, you may not know how to respond. If convicted, you could face a very long jail sentence including up to life in prison.

A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you make the difficult decisions of what to do next. An attorney experience in defense of robbery charges or other theft crimes will be able to clarify the issues facing a client, help to identify the elements required to prosecute, and defend their client in court.