Robbery is a major felony carrying a severe penalty. Using or possessing a deadly weapon during the commission of a robbery carries up to life in prison under Florida law. It’s important to understand what actions constitute robbery.
Only with a full understanding of robbery, armed robbery, and different types of larceny can someone distinguish between these similar crimes.
What Is Robbery?
Robbery involves taking something from another person by using or threatening to use force or by instilling fear in the victim. In the old common law, a robbery conviction could not be sustained unless the prosecutor could prove that the defendant had the intent to permanently deprive the victim of the value of the thing taken.
Under Florida’s modern criminal statute, even a temporary intent to deprive a victim of the value of the thing taken is enough to support a conviction.
The precise language of Florida’s robbery statute defines the crime as follows:
“taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.”
Robbery requires a human victim. When someone says their house was robbed, they actually mean the house was “burglarized.” Robbery can only take place when a human victim has something taken by force or the threat of harm.
Possessing a Weapon or a Deadly Weapon in the Commission of a Robbery
The most serious type of robbery is committed when armed with a firearm or another “deadly weapon.”
- Deadly Weapon: The penalty for robbery with a deadly weapon is up to life in prison.
- Weapon The penalty for robbery with a weapon (not deadly) is up to 30 years in prison.
What’s the difference between a “weapon” and a “deadly weapon?”
When the Florida legislature enacted different penalties for robbery with a deadly weapon and robbery with a non-deadly weapon, it never provided a clear definition between the two. Instead, F.S. 790.001(13) defined a “weapon” as including “deadly weapon[s]”:
A weapon is “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slingshot, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or another deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.”
The courts needed to answer the question of what counts as a deadly weapon in Florida. The Florida courts have now clearly declared that a deadly weapon is either:
- an object “used or threatened to be used in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or
- an object likely to cause death or great bodily harm “when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design and construction.
Thus, robbery with a deadly weapon is any robbery in which an object is used or threatened to be used in a way that would likely cause great bodily harm or death. That certainly includes things like a machete or a baseball bat. Using or threatening to use one of these objects as a weapon could certainly cause the kind of injury described in the law. But so too could a kitchen chair, a shovel, or a large stone.
But what about a small stone or a plastic chair? The key fact in determining whether something is a deadly weapon, just a weapon, or not a weapon at all is the manner in which the object is used or threatened to be used.
Carrying a Weapon During the Course of a Robbery Counts as “Using” It.
The law holds that carrying a weapon “in the course of committing the robbery” is essentially the same as using it for purposes of determining the applicable maximum sentence. But when does the “course of committing the robbery” begin and end?
According to Florida statute 812.13(3)(a) and (b), the “course of committing the robbery” includes:
- during an attempt to commit robbery and while fleeing from the attempted robbery, and
- before, during, and after taking the item from the victim if occurring in a continuous series of acts or events.
Robbery “Without” a Weapon: Robbery Up to 15 Years in State Prison (2nd Degree Felony)
Robbery without a weapon is still a serious crime carrying a harsh prison sentence. But there is a substantial difference between facing 15 years in prison for second-degree robbery without a weapon and life in prison for first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon.
Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers Use the Law to Shield You from Unjust Convictions
It may seem like a simple task to distinguish between whether an object is a deadly weapon or not. But the real-life process of criminal justice is never simple. Prosecutors usually consider it their duty to convict every defendant of the most serious crime the facts of the case can support.
Prosecutors will often argue that almost any object was or could be used as a deadly weapon. A defendant’s freedom and their entire future depend on their defense lawyer’s skill, knowledge of the law, and courtroom experience.
Don’t leave your future up to chance. Get Tampa’s experienced criminal defense law firm on your side when facing robbery charges. Call 813-280-1244 to speak with our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell Law today.