By: Mark Diaz
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How Severe Are Armed Robbery Charges In Texas?
It may not be welcome news if you were recently arrested but, to put it bluntly, Texas armed robbery charges are among the most serious a person can face. Texas statutes use the term “aggravated robbery” when certain factors are present in a robbery scenario, and having a firearm or deadly weapon is one of them.
Statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reveal that authorities are aggressive in pursuing suspects. Out of almost 6,000 individuals arrested on robbery charges, more than 52.3% of offenders had a firearm and 16.7% used other dangerous weapons, knives, or cutting instruments. In other words, around 70% of all robbery cases are aggravated crimes.
However, the efforts of police in apprehending offenders are just one aspect factor to consider on how severe Texas armed robbery charges are. An additional point should put things into perspective: ALL robberies are felonies and being armed when you commit the crime makes your situation even more serious. Many individuals make the wise choice to retain Galveston County criminal defense attorneys to assist with the charges, and some information should convince you to do the same.
How Texas Robbery Laws Work
Many people equate robbery with theft or larceny, so it is important to eliminate any confusion about the crimes. Robbery falls under the umbrella of theft because it involves the taking of money or property that belongs to someone else. The difference is that robbery incorporates the use of violence. To prove a case for basic robbery, a prosecutor must prove that you caused bodily injury OR made threats in connection with a theft crime. If convicted, you face a Second Degree Felony for robbery.
The stakes are much higher for armed robbery charges, a crime that is classified as a First Degree Felony. On this point, you should note the following:
- The term “armed” is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that charges only apply if you have a weapon. To clarify, you could be convicted of the crime even without a weapon if you caused serious bodily harm to another person.
- To get a conviction for aggravated robbery, the prosecution must first prove the elements of a robbery case. Once this offense is established, the government must then show that the course of committing the offense, you:
- Caused serious bodily injury.
- Employed a deadly weapon.
- Caused bodily injury or threatened to harm a disabled individual or person who is 65 years or older.
- There is a distinction between injury levels in aggravated robbery cases. Bodily injury means any physical pain or physical impairment, a relatively low threshold. Serious bodily injury means bodily injury that is life-threatening, causes permanent disfigurement, or impairment of bodily function. In other words, the bar is lower when the victim is disabled or elderly.
- The definition of “disabled” means anyone with a mental, physical, or developmental disability who cannot protect against harm.
- Another important definition is what constitutes a “deadly” weapon: Under Texas law, this would include:
- A firearm.
- Any object designed for inflicting death or serious bodily injury.
- Any device capable of causing death or serious bodily injury when used as intended.
- The “course” of committing the offense includes an attempt. So you could be convicted of aggravated robbery even if you do not complete the crime, and even if you never took anything from the victim. It also encompasses your flight from the scene after an attempt or commission of the offense.
Severe Punishment for an Armed Robbery Conviction
As a First Degree Felony, aggravated robbery includes mandatory minimum sentencing. A judge or jury must issue a sentence of at least five years’ incarceration but may order up to 99 years in prison. In comparison, robbery as a Second Degree Felony is punishable by a minimum of two and a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. Both offenses carry $10,000.
However, there are certain circumstances under which the punishment for armed robbery is more severe, and the defendant’s criminal history is a key factor. If you are on trial for any felony and you have prior prison trips on your record, an “enhancement” applies which raises the mandatory minimum sentences. If you have one prior prison trip, then the punishment ranged is enhanced to 15 years up to 99 years or life in prison. If you have two prior prison trips then the punishment range is enhanced to 25 years up to 99 years or life.
Do Not Overlook Collateral Consequences
Another factor you cannot discount when looking at the severity of aggravated robbery charges is what happens after you serve your sentence. Even after you are released from incarceration and paid your fines, there are legal and regulatory penalties that impact your life. These are the collateral consequences that impose restrictions on individuals who were convicted of any crime, though the implications may be lesser for a misdemeanor as compared to a felony.
Initially, you can see from the above that one of the most critical collateral consequences is how a conviction affects future crimes. With a felony conviction for armed robbery on your record, you are subject to the enhancements. Plus:
- You could lose your driver’s license.
- Employment can be challenging with a conviction on your record, whether you are forced to disclose the information or it is uncovered in a background check.
- Your job or business could be in jeopardy, since a conviction may result in revocation or suspension of professional licenses.
- A felony conviction impacts your right to vote and Second Amendment rights.
Options for Defending Aggravated Robbery Charges
Considering the penalties and collateral consequences, a solid defense strategy is essential if you were arrested for armed robbery in Texas. You are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. From the above description of the crime, you note that definitions are very important as essential elements. When the government presents its case, your Galveston criminal defense lawyer may fight the allegations on multiple grounds:
- You may be able to contest the severity of the harm to the victim, as aggravated robbery charges only apply to serious bodily injuries. This defense presumes you do not have a weapon and the victim was not elderly or disabled.
- In a sense, the prosecutor essentially has to prove three crimes to get a conviction for armed robbery:
- Theft, which is the unlawful misappropriation of another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
- Robbery, i.e., theft accompanied by violence, threats, and other acts intended to place the victim in fear of harm or death.
- Armed robbery, in which the crime of robbery along with serious bodily injury, use or brandishing a weapon, or bodily injury to a vulnerable victim.
By attacking the government’s evidence, you may be able to raise the shadow of a doubt in the minds of jurors.
- For all theft crimes, including robbery and aggravated robbery, the prosecution must show that you acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. There can be challenges for the government in proving your state of mind.
When the prosecution rests, it is your turn to present exhibits and witnesses in your defense. You will not be required to take the stand, and it is usually recommended that you do not testify. Your protections regarding self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment apply, and you cannot be forced to act as a witness against yourself. Your defense attorney may rely on other sources of evidence to present such defenses as:
- Lack of knowledge or intent.
- There was little bodily injury.
- The victim did not have reasonable grounds to fear injury or death.
Other Strategies for Addressing Armed Robbery Charges
The nature of aggravated robbery cases provides you with additional options to fight the allegations. For instance, you may be able to plea bargain the charges down to robbery or theft. The punishment is less severe, and you could end up with a misdemeanor conviction after pleading guilty in exchange for lenience.
Count on Our Galveston County Criminal Defense Attorneys for Legal Help
This overview should help you understand that armed robbery charges in Texas are extremely severe and can lead to substantial penalties that can have life-altering repercussions. Still, the harshest punishment only applies if you are convicted. With help from a skilled lawyer, it may be possible to defend the allegations or plea bargain for a favorable outcome.
If you are facing armed robbery charges you do not have to do so alone. Please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz to set up a consultation. Individuals in Galveston County and Greater Houston can call (409) 515-6170 to speak with a Texas criminal defense lawyer. After assessing your circumstances, we can advise you on potential defense strategies.