Armed robbery is defined as anyone who, while armed with a dangerous weapon, assaults another and robs, steals, or takes money or other property which may be the subject of a larceny. Basically, it is stealing someone's property that they are carrying on them personally, while you are carrying some kind of weapon.
In Massachusetts, you do not even have to be armed to be convicted of armed robbery. Simply telling the victim that you are armed is enough to be charged with and convicted of this crime. Conviction based on merely stating or implying that there is a weapon reflects the belief that one of the harms of armed robbery is the fear that the victim has felt due to the commission of the crime.
If someone is convicted of armed robbery, he or she may be facing life imprisonment in a state penitentiary. The judge has the discretion to impose a sentence of any number of years, however he or she is fully able to sentence the defendant to life in prison.
There are many factors that may affect how a judge determines the length of the sentence. Such factors may include the defendant's prior criminal record, the manner in which the robbery was committed, certain characteristics of the victim, or any other factors that the judge believes are relevant to judging how much punishment is necessary for a particular defendant.
The law also dictates certain required sentences, when the crime is committed in a certain way. For example, if the defendant commits an armed robbery while wearing a disguise, or anything that attempts to obscure his or her face, there is a minimum of five years for the first offense and a minimum of ten years for each subsequent offense. Furthermore, if the defendant is armed with any type firearm while committing the robbery, there is a minimum sentence of five years and a minimum of fifteen years for any subsequent offense.Proving Armed Robbery
There are four elements to armed robbery in Massachusetts. The prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. If it cannot prove one of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant must be acquitted.
First, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon, which is any weapon that can jeopardize life or cause serious injury. The prosecution must also prove that the defendant put the victim in fear or caused harm to them by force. It must also prove that the defendant took the victim's property with the intent to steal it, which means that he or she took it, intending to deprive them of it permanently. Finally, the prosecution must prove that the defendant actually took control of the victim's property.Defending Against Charges of Armed Robbery
To defend against a charge of armed robbery, the defendant needs to cast doubt on one or more of the elements of the offense that the prosecution is required to prove. The defendant can do this by calling into question the credibility of testimony and evidence that is introduced at trial. The defendant can also move to have evidence suppressed. Suppressing evidence involves proving to the court before trial that the evidence was collected illegally or incorrectly and therefore cannot be used against the defendant at trial.
One of the primary ways to defend against armed robbery is to raise an identification issue. The prosecution's case hinges on the victim or witnesses being able to identify the defendant as the one who committed the robbery. If the defendant can cast doubt on whether they were in fact the one who robbed the victim he or she may be able to gain an acquittal.
While the defendant can cast doubt on the victim and other witnesses' testimony of what they saw, the defendant may also have the identification suppressed before trial. A legitimate basis for suppressing an identification would be an overly suggestive identification line up or violations of other procedures that have been created to ensure fairness in the identification process.
The defendant may also undermine the prosecutor's case by casting doubt on whether he or she was in fact armed. If the police performed an illegal search or if they did not properly follow the procedure for collecting and storing evidence, the defendant may be able to suppress the weapon before trial. If the prosecution cannot prove that there was a weapon, it will then have to reduce the charge to unarmed robbery, larceny or dismiss it all together. This method can also be used to suppress the presence of the property that was allegedly taken from the victim, thereby taking away all evidence of one of the elements that the prosecution must prove.