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MASSBAR
The National Trial Lawyers
Greater Lowell Bar Association

Armed Robbery and Unarmed Robbery

Robbery is a serious crime in Massachusetts and a conviction could result in a life prison sentence.

Elements of Armed Robbery

In order to convict a defendant of armed robbery, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant had armed himself with a dangerous weapon;
  2. The defendant either threatened the victim (thereby placing the victim in fear) or used force and violence against the victim’s body;
  3. The defendant took the victim’s property and intended to steal it; and
  4. The defendant stole the property from the victim’s body or immediate control of the victim.

A dangerous weapon is any item that can be used to cause serious injury or death. Innocent items can turn into dangerous weapons when a defendant deliberately uses them in a dangerous way.  For example, a butter knife is a dangerous weapon when it is thrown at someone's eye and a shoe is a dangerous weapon when it is used to kick somebody.

There are enhanced penalties if the defendant was masked or if the defendant was armed with a gun during the robbery. Unarmed robbery is a lesser included offense of armed robbery and does not require the Commonwealth to prove the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon.

Common Defense Strategies

Robbery cases are defended in the following ways.

  • Identification - Particularly when the defendant is masked, there will likely be an issue of identity. An armed robbery is obviously a stressful and hectic incident. It makes sense that an alleged victim might misidentify the defendant. Attorney Spring aggressively cross-examines all eyewitnesses in these types of cases.
  • Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - Robberies are often committed during the execution of other crimes.  For example, the illegal drug trade industry is notorious for drug users robbing their dealers.  If the alleged victim of a robbery has his own criminal record, Attorney Spring will obtain a court order to obtain it.  If the alleged victim's convictions happened within the last decade, the jury may be entitled to hear about them.  Even if the alleged victim was not committing a crime at the time of the robbery, if he's had trouble with the law in the past, such evidence may be admissible at the defendant's trial. 
  • Bias - Robberies are scary, violent events.  Someone claiming to be the victim of a robbery is going to harbor negative feelings toward the defendant which could impair his ability to offer unbiased testimony.  Attorney Spring will explore any potential bias on cross-examination.

What happens if the alleged victim fought back during the robbery?  Or lied to the police about the details of the case?  The government cannot force a witness to testify if doing so might cause the witness to be charged with a crime.  A witness who might be forced to admit to his own crime while testifying has a Fifth Amendment Privilege and can refuse to testify at the defendant's trial.  When Attorney Spring believes any witness might incriminate himself by testifying, he asks the judge to appoint an attorney to speak to the witness and explain the potential dangers of testifying. 

If you are charged with a crime that could land you in prison for the rest of your life, it's critical that you hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to represent you.  Contact Attorney Chris Spring for a free consultation.

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