The Crime of Armed Robbery in Massachusetts

The crime of armed robbery is governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 § 17. That law defines armed robbery as assaulting and robbing or stealing from another person while being armed with a dangerous weapon.

What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove to Get a Conviction for Armed Robbery?

The prosecutor has to prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of this offense. Firstly, he must prove that the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon. A dangerous weapon is one that can jeopardize a life or cause serious injury, but it does not need to be designed to do so. Whether or not the defendant used the weapon does not matter, nor does the time when the defendant became armed, as long as his being armed was related to the robbery. The Commonwealth does NOT have to prove that the “dangerous weapon” was used in a menacing manner. The focus of the statute is to punish a defendant who committed the offense while armed and it does not matter whether the weapon was displayed or not. It is also not necessary that the victim be aware that the defendant is in possession of a dangerous weapon for the Commonwealth to secure a conviction. However, the Commonwealth must produce evidence that the defendant was actually armed at the time of the robbery. Even if a perpetrator claims to have a weapon and it turns out that he or she does not, the defendant cannot be charged with armed robbery. Common examples of “per se” dangerous weapons include guns, knives and brass knuckles. There is a second category of instruments that are used in such a fashion that they reasonably appear capable of causing serious injury or death. Secondly, the prosecutor has to prove that a threat made by the defendant put the victim in a state of fear or that the defendant physically hurt or used force on the victim. In order to sustain the fear-based element, the Commonwealth must prove that the victim was actually afraid. To satisfy this element, the prosecutor has to prove that the robbery or stealing was the effect of the threat or force. A threat can be expressed verbally or by actions. Thirdly, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant took the victim’s possession intending to steal it. To satisfy this element, he must prove that the taking was against the will of the victim. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant took the victim’s possession out of the victim’s control. Whether or not the victim owned the item does not matter, as long as the victim controlled it when it was stolen.

What Are the Potential Consequences if Someone Is Convicted of Armed Robbery?

Life in prison is one potential punishment for armed robbery. A conviction could also result in imprisonment for any term of years. Armed robbery while masked or disguised carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the first conviction. A conviction for armed robbery with a firearm, rifle, shot gun, assault weapon or machine gun carries a five-year mandatory minimum as well. In the event that someone is convicted of armed robbery more than once while armed with a firearm or any assault weapon, he or she will be sentenced to state prison for not less than fifteen years.

Are There Any Lesser Included Offenses to Armed Robbery?

Yes. Some of the common lesser included offenses of armed robbery are robbery and larceny. Assault by means of a dangerous weapon is NOT a lesser included offense to this crime.

Does a Defendant Need a Lawyer if He or She Is Charged With Armed Robbery?

You should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately upon being charged with armed robbery. It is crucial that you receive the best defense possible, given the seriousness of the charge. An Attorney can provide the powerful defense that you need. She has gained unparalleled skill and knowledge in her twenty years of practicing criminal law, and she works tirelessly for each and every one of her clients.