- Strong Arm Robbery, Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, Robbery with a Firearm, Robbery by Sudden Snatching, Attempted Robbery
As you can see above, a robbery charge comes in many different shapes and sizes. At the most basic level, robbery is a taking of the property of another through the "use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear." Section 812.13, Florida Statutes. So, the type of force used can determine the severity of the robbery (strongarm, or sudden snatching, for example). And, a robbery can be upgraded in severity based upon the use of a weapon, and the type of weapon (deadly weapon, firearm, etc.). Or, the charge can be upgraded when an assault or threat is mixed in with the taking.
Robbery requires that the person being robbed be placed in some type of fear. The element of fear is a tough one to prove, because the court cannot rely upon whether or not the victim was "actually" placed in fear (some people are afraid of their own shadow), but rather whether or not a reasonable person would have been in fear. And, not just any fear, this fear has to be a fear of death or great bodily harm. A few examples will flush this issue out.
In one case, a defendant was arrested for robbery for taking money out of a cash register while at a McDonald's drive-thru window, when the employee's back was turned. Fine v. State
, 758 So.2d 1246 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000). This robbery conviction was thrown out, because the drive-thru employee had his back turned during the theft, and as such, he was never really "placed in fear".
A similar issue arose in Schram v. State, 614 So.2d 646 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993). Schram announced she intended to take two 12-packs of beer and the clerk saw a bulge in the defendant's back pocket which he assumed was a knife. Even though the clerk was in fear of what was perceived to be a knife, the court threw out the robbery conviction because fear of great bodily harm was not reasonable under these facts. Remember, fear is not enough. It must be fear of great bodily harm.
Sometimes, however, a weapon is not required to place someone in fear, mere words will do. In Brown v. State, a robbery conviction was affirmed where a teller was handed a note saying "this is a holdup." 397 So.2d 1153 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981). The key was not the note, but rather that the defendant instilled fear in the bank teller by stating she should do as she is told if she loved her family. That was enough of a "placing in fear" to uphold the robbery conviction.
Robbery with a firearm is another hotbed of legal disputes. First, it should be noted that a firearm has to project an object by way of explosives, and it must be capable of inflicting great bodily harm (toy cap guns aren't firearms...) But what happens if a firearm is recovered, how can the State prove one was used in the commission of a robbery? Proof can come here by way of victim testimony that he/she saw what looked like a firearm. Take the case of Akins v. State, where a victim testified that the defendant pointed an object at her that she identified as a sawed off shotgun, but no gun was recovered. 838 So.2d 637. The court upheld the Armed Robbery with a Firearm conviction, reasoning that the fact that there was no gun recovered does not preclude a finding that what the victim saw was designed to project an object by way of explosives (i.e., the definition of a firearm...). Now, let's confuse you further by discussing Jones v. State, 869 So. 2d 1240 (4th DCA 2004), in which the defendant used a BB gun during a robbery, and the gun looked like a real gun, but the state destroyed the gun before trial and presented no evidence that it was capable of producing great bodily harm. The armed robbery conviction was reversed. In Hutchinson v. State, 816 So. 2d 1186 (2d DCA 2002), the defendant used a starter pistol in the robbery, and the court held that the defendant could not be convicted of robbery with a weapon.
Robbery cases are very fact sensitive, and thus all the more reason to give criminal attorney John Guidry a call to discuss your specific scenario. The call is free, the consultation is free, our office line is (407) 423-1117. Thanks.