Armed Robbery

In Massachusetts, armed robbery is defined by G.L. c. 265, § 17. The law defines armed robbery as the event in which an individual assaults another person and either robs, steals or takes money or other property while armed with a dangerous weapon. Armed robbery is considered a serious felony in Massachusetts, and is punishable by a possibility of life in state prison or for any term of years. To be convicted of armed robbery in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon;
  2. A threat made by the defendant put the alleged victim in a state of fear, or the defendant physically hurt or used force on the victim;
  3. The defendant took the alleged victim’s possession intending to steal it; and
  4. The defendant took the alleged victim’s possession out the victim’s control.

A dangerous weapon is defined as one capable of jeopardizing a life or causing serious injury. The law distinguishes or characterizes dangerous weapons into two categories. The first is an instrumentality designed and constructed to produce death or great bodily harm (per se dangerous weapon). Some common examples of this type of dangerous weapon include knives, guns, explosives, switchblades, brass knuckles, and swords. The second kind of dangerous weapon is an instrumentality not designed or constructed to produce death or great bodily harm, but when used in a specific manner may become a dangerous weapon. In this second category, an otherwise innocent item can become a dangerous weapon if it is intentionally used as a dangerous weapon or in a potentially dangerous fashion. For example, a pencil aimed at another’s eyeball can be considered a dangerous weapon. Commonwealth v Tarrant establishes that a dog may be considered a dangerous weapon for the purposes of this crime. The circumstances surrounding the alleged weapon will be considered with the crime for specific determination of whether or not the weapon was indeed dangerous. In Massachusetts, it does not matter whether the defendant actually used the weapon; the importance is that the defendant was armed, not the use of the weapon [Commonwealth v Nickologines, 322 Mass. 274, 277 (1948)].

To satisfy the second element, the prosecution must be able to prove that the assault and robbery were carried out using force or threat of force. The degree of force is immaterial so long as the force is sufficient to enable the defendant to obtain the victim’s money or property against his will. The third element of items or possessions having been taken from the victim can be satisfied by testimony from the victim or witnesses of the assault. The necessary intent of the defendant can be inferred by the alleged actions suggesting that he or she meant to deprive the owner of his property. Finally, the fourth element will be satisfied through evidence that the taking was against the will of the alleged victim. The item must have been under the control of the victim at the time of the robbery, regardless of whether the item was owned by the alleged victim.

Potential Penalties for Armed Robbery

The Massachusetts armed robbery statute provides that anyone convicted of armed robbery is punishable by incarceration in the state prison for life or for any term of years. The judge has the capacity to sentence you for any term of years as they see fit; the amount of which will be determined by the specific facts of the case and a defendant’s prior criminal history, if any. If however, the individual committed the armed robbery while wearing a mask or disguise, he is punishable by incarceration for not less than five years for the first offense, and not less than ten years for any subsequent offense. In the event that a firearm, shotgun, rifle, machine gun or assault weapon was used in the armed robbery, that individual shall be imprisoned in state prison for not less than five years for the first offense, and not less than fifteen years for any subsequent offense.

Armed Robbery Defenses

In an armed robbery case, certain significant defenses are available, including duress. To be convicted of armed robbery, it must be shown that one committed the act of their own free will. Therefore, if the defendant offers evidence that he or she was under duress or compulsion to commit the act, it may offer an affirmative defense to the armed robbery charge depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. In other instances, the only evidence about the identity of the alleged robber stems from witness testimony, or fingerprints/DNA found at the crime scene. Many problems arise from the use of witness testimony, as many of the accounts provided by a witness fall apart in court due to the inability of the human mind to reconstruct accurate memories. Additionally, humans are more apt to tailor their stories and their memories based on their audience. For example, information given to police officers searching for a suspect are more likely to include purported incriminating evidence due to the police officers status of authority. Also, if the prosecution attempts to establish armed robbery using a joint venture theory, there may not be sufficient evidence to support an allegation that a defendant acted in a joint venture with another co-defendant. An armed robbery charge is a very serious offense in Massachusetts and requires the utmost care and detail when handling a case of this nature.

-Boston Area Armed Robbery Criminal Defense Attorney-

The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is fully prepared to vigorously defend your armed robbery case in Massachusetts, and Attorney Murphy has the knowledge and skill to assert all necessary defenses available to a client facing criminal charges, including armed robbery charges. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy has been practicing criminal defense law in Massachusetts for 18 years, and has the tactical skills and courtroom know-how to construct the most aggressive defense for your armed robbery case. To contact the Law Office of Attorney Patrick J. Murphy today for a free and confidential discussion of your case, please call (617) 367-0450 or visit the contacts tab on our website.

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