The crime of aggravated robbery is very serious because it involves not just robbery but also injury or other aggravated circumstances. In the majority of cases, there is a distinction between robbery (theft) and aggravated robbery. It usually means that the crime involved multiple defendants, use of a deadly weapon, and/or injury or harm to the victim. The exact definition of “aggravated” varies from one state to another, and different elements sometimes have to be proven. For instance, in some states, threatening with a weapon, even without an actual weapon being present, may constitute aggravated robbery in certain states.
In most cases, aggravated robbery is a state crime. However, there are situations in which it can be federal as well. If so, three specific statutes exist:
- The Federal Bank Robbery Act
- Theft from the mail service
- The Hobbs Act.
Elements of Aggravated Robbery
Each state has set its own specific definition of aggravated robbery. However, a number of elements generally have to be present, firstly to prove robbery has been committed and, secondly, to prove it was aggravated. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, who must demonstrate the existence of the different elements beyond reasonable doubt. The most commonly seen elements are:
- That personal property, including money, had to be taken from someone else with intent and without consent. Premeditation or deliberation does not have to have been present.
- That the personal property must have been taken within sufficient proximity of the victim. This does not necessarily mean it has to have been on their actual person or within eyesight, however.
- That asportation, taking, or carrying away of the victim’s possession has taken place. This does not mean that the robber smust have been able to escape with the property, but rather that they took it away. Even i they abandon it later, it is still classed as robbery.
- That the property had value, regardless of how much is that value. The monetary value is not of importance, but rather that the victim attaches value – financial or emotional – to it.
- That the property does not have to be taken from the individual who holds the legal title. Rather, it has to have been taken from the individual exerting control over it at the time of the robbery.
- That the accused used intimidation or force to take the property. Either of the two is sufficient to secure a conviction. However, the force must be enough to actually effect the taking of property, otherwise it would be classified as larceny instead. Pick-pocketing, for instance, would generally be classed as larceny. However, if a pickpocket is caught in the act, the victim resists, and the pickpocket exerts force in order to continue with their theft, it can become robbery. The level of force or intimidation used will also be taken into consideration to determine whether aggravated robbery took place. Force can also be constructive, such as administering drugs or otherwise stupefying the victim in order to commit robbery. Similarly, intimidation will also aggravate the crime. If the victims have been made to fear for their own safety, even if the perpetrator would never have acted on the threats, is enough to lead to a robbery or even aggravated robbery charge.
- That criminal intent was present. Having specific intent is vital to secure a conviction. This is true whether intimidation or force was present or not. The intent must be demonstrated through the actions and/or words of the accused. For instance, if people use a certain degree of force but act by mistake, for instance if they believed the property was theirs to take, or if they are joking, they cannot be convicted of robbery. That said, no premeditation is necessary.
Aggravated Robbery Penalties
Each state has its own statutes that indicate what the penalties are for aggravated robbery and what are the mitigating and aggravating circumstances. There are numerous factors that a judge will take into consideration, including:
- The monetary and emotional value of the property that was taken from the victim
- Whether a weapon was used in the robbery and, if so, the type of weapon
- Whether an accomplice was present during the robbery
- Whether any harm was done to the victim during the robbery
Sentencing guidelines vary, but common punishments include time in jail or prison, fines, probation, community service, and counseling.
In almost all states, aggravated robbery is classed as a felony offense. Different states have different sub-classifications of felony offenses, with different sentences as well. In Texas, for instance, the consequences of being found guilty of aggravated robbery range from five to 99 years in prison, as well as restitution. In Illinois, by contrast, the range is four to 15 years, although it is possible for this to be extended to 30 in certain circumstances.
Judges usually have a certain degree of discretion when it comes to setting the actual sentence they feel appropriate. They will take all the aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration. These include the severity of the victim’s injuries, the perpetrator’s criminal history, and whether the victim is disabled, elderly, or a minor, for instance.
Aggravated Robbery Defenses
It can be very difficult to properly defend someone against a charge of aggravated robbery. The main form of defense is mistaken identity. This is why lawyers will often focus on how the identification process took place, trying to discredit any and all eyewitnesses. Other defenses include:
- Lack of evidence, suggesting it is not proven beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
- That the accused believed they were the property’s rightful owner.
It is very important that those facing an aggravated robbery charge seek legal counsel as soon as possible, as it is a very serious crime with potentially lengthy prison sentences.
- 9-131.000 – The Hobbs Act – 18 U.S.C. Section 1951. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/usam/usam-9-131000-hobbs-act-18-usc-1951
- The Federal Bank Robbery Act (18 U.S.C.A. Section 2113). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2113
- 18 U.S.C.A. Section 2112. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2112
- 18 U.S.C.A. Section 2114. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2114