In Pennsylvania, robbery is considered one of the most serious criminal charges an individual can face. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, robbery can be graded as 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree felony. A robbery conviction often carries serious penalties including lengthy prison time, substantial fines and court costs and lifetime designation as a violent felon.
Robbery offenses are prosecuted more vigorously because the crimes often involve acts of physical violence towards the victim. If you are charged with committing a robbery, it is important that you begin building a focused and aggressive defense immediately.
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals facing robbery charges in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Pennsylvania Robbery Law
Robbery, under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3701 is defined in part as:
- A person is guilty of robbery if, in the course of committing a theft, he or she:
- Inflicts serious bodily injury upon another; or
- Threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate serious bodily injury; or
- Commits or threatens to immediately commit any felony of the 1st or 2nd degree; or
- Inflicts bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him or her in fear of immediate bodily injury; or
- Physically takes or removes property from the person or another by force however slight; or
- Takes or removes the money of a financial institution without the permission of the financial institution by making a demand of an employee of the financial institution orally or in writing with the intent to deprive the financial institution thereof
- An act shall be deemed to be “in the course of committing a theft” if it occurs in an attempt to commit a theft or in flight after the attempt or commission of a theft
- For the purposes of the robbery statute, a “financial institution” means a bank, trust company, savings trust, credit union or similar institution
Grading for Robbery Offenses
Robbery is graded as a 1st degree felony under sections 1 through 3 or if the object of the robbery is a controlled substance or designer drug. Robbery is graded as a 2nd degree felony under sections 4 and 6. Robbery is graded as 3rd degree felony under section 5.
Common Robbery Examples
An example of a 1st degree felony robbery would be a robbery committed with the use of a firearm, knife or other weapon or a robbery in which the victim sustained significant bone fractures or lacerations. An example of a 2nd degree felony robbery would be a robbery in which a demand for money was accompanied by a threat of violence. An example of a 3rd degree felony robbery would be a robbery commonly referred to as a purse snatching or phone snatching.
The grading of your robbery charge can make a significant difference in the penalties you may face if you are convicted. It is not unusual for the police or prosecutors to file robbery charges as a 1st degree felony when the facts and evidence indicate that it should actually be charged as a 3rd degree felony. I can review the circumstances of your case to determine if the police and prosecutors have filed the charges properly.
Penalties for a Pennsylvania Robbery Conviction
The penalties for a robbery conviction vary depending on an individual’s prior criminal record and the level of force or threats employed at the time of the offense. Additionally, a conviction for robbery involving the infliction of serious bodily injury on a person or a threat that places a person in fear of immediate serious bodily injury is considered a “strike offense” under Pennsylvania’s “3 strikes law.” Individuals convicted of a 2nd strike offense are subject to mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, while those convicted of a 3rd strike offense are subject to a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison or a life sentence.
- 1st degree felony
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Up to $25,000 in fines
- 2nd degree felony
- Up to 10 years in prison
- Up to $25,000 in fines
- 3rd degree felony
- Up to 7 years in prison
- Up to $15,000 in fines
Additional Adverse Consequences of a Robbery Conviction
In addition to a lengthy prison sentence and significant fines and court costs, a robbery conviction will most likely remain on your record for the rest of your life. A criminal conviction for robbery will adversely affect your financial and professional opportunities, including your ability to become employed, receive personal or educational loans, acquire housing or enlist in the military. It is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to fight for your rights and your freedom if you are facing a robbery charge.
Eyewitness Misidentification in Robbery Cases
Prosecutors often rely primarily on eyewitness testimony to gain a conviction in a robbery case. The Florida Innocence Project conducted a post-conviction study of criminal cases in which a misidentification of the accused had occurred. They found that in 50 percent of the cases, eyewitness testimony was the primary evidence used against the accused during the trial, without other corroborating evidence such as a confession, forensic evidence or informant testimony. The Florida Innocence Project concluded that eyewitness testimony was the single most unreliable form of evidence accounting for the majority of convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence.
Factors Affecting Eyewitness Identifications
Eyewitness identifications are often susceptible to suggestive identification procedures by the police. Examples include failing to follow proper procedures while conducting a photo lineup for a witness or failing to follow proper guidelines during a “show-up” identification for a witness at the scene of a crime. Many other factors can contribute to misidentification by an eyewitness including:
- Limits of human memory
- Eyewitness bias
- Alcohol or drug use by the eyewitness
- Insufficient length of observation time
- Overestimation of the accuracy of the identification by the eyewitness
- Effect of severe stress on the eyewitness
Challenging the Eyewitness Identification in Court
In certain cases, I have been successful in excluding evidence from suggestive or otherwise unreliable eyewitness identifications through the filing of a Motion to Suppress Identification Evidence. During the trial, I will frequently present defense expert testimony addressing the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. In many cases, I have been able to use my understanding of the science of eyewitness identifications and my cross-examination skills to successfully refute the prosecution’s eyewitness evidence in identification cases. I can help you if you are facing a robbery charge based on eyewitness evidence.
Common Robbery Defenses
I will thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances of your case and develop the most effective defense against the robbery charges. My professional network includes many highly qualified independent forensic experts and investigators.
In certain cases, I will use an independent investigator to interview and subpoena defense witnesses and to acquire documentary evidence such as phone records, medical records, surveillance video and other evidence establishing the innocence of the accused. I will file a Motion to Suppress Evidence if the police violated your state or federal constitutional rights during the search and seizure of evidence or during an unlawful police interrogation. Some of the other most common defenses against the charge of robbery include:
- Lack of theft
- Lack of intent to commit a robbery
- Lack of injury to the victim
- Lack of fear by the victim
- Challenges to DNA, fingerprint or other forensic evidence
- Establishing that you are rightful owner of the property taken
In some cases, I have been able to negotiate with the police and prosecutors to have the robbery charges reduced to less serious offenses, resulting in significantly reduced fines, court costs and penalties. I can review the evidence in your case to determine if a negotiated plea agreement would provide the most effective resolution of your charges.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with robbery in Bucks County, Montgomery County or the surrounding counties, it is critical to act quickly to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense against the charges. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.