When you hear the word “robbery,” what do you think of? Ski masks? Bank robbers? Outlaws? The portrayals of robbers and robberies may look dramatic on television and in movies, but the real stories of robberies aren’t so glamorous.
Take the story of Minnesota representative Dennis Smith. A few weeks ago, he was walking around Grand Avenue in St. Paul after signing a bill into law that he co-authored. As he headed toward his car, a man approached, pointed a handgun at him, and demanded to have Smith’s wallet and phone. Smith gave the robber what he wanted, and the man fled. Afterward, Smith immediately went to a bar to call the police.
When the story was reported, Smith described the suspect to police, but no arrests or charges were made. If police do apprehend the man who robbed Smith, the single incident may result in up to 20 years behind bars for him.
Understanding Charges for Robbery in Minnesota
There are three different charges for robbery in Minnesota: simple robbery, first degree aggravated robbery, and second degree aggravated robbery.
Simple Robbery is the least serious and most basic form of robbery in Minnesota. Minnesota law says:
“Whoever, having knowledge of not being entitled thereto, takes personal property from the person or in the presence of another and uses or threatens the imminent use of force against any person to overcome the person’s resistance or powers of resistance to, or to compel acquiescence in, the taking or carrying away of the property is guilty of robbery and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.”
It doesn’t matter how much property was stolen, unlike with most theft charges. Even if you take a broken cell phone or a pack of gum, you may face up to 10 years in prison.
Aggravated robbery is a more serious charge. Aggravated robbery charges involve a dangerous weapon, but here’s the confusing thing – someone can be charged with aggravated robbery even if they don’t actually have a weapon on their person at the time of the robbery.
How does this work? If someone commits a robbery by implying that they have a dangerous weapon, their charges can be increased to second degree aggravated robbery. Penalties for a conviction include up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $30,000 in fines.
Let’s repeat that. Even if you do not have any sort of weapon on your person, but tell a victim “I have a gun,” or imply that there is a weapon present in any way, you could face an increased sentence.
If “any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a dangerous weapon” is present, or if a dangerous weapon leads to serious bodily injury, then the charge is elevated to first degree aggravated robbery. Penalties for a conviction include up to 20 years behind bars and/or fines of up to $35,000.
The robbery committed against Rep. Dennis Smith involved a present dangerous weapon, so if the suspect is caught, he may be charged with first degree aggravated robbery. Additional weapons charges may be added on if the suspect was barred from having guns or was caught holding other illegal contraband.
Defenses to Robbery Charges
Robbery charges are substantially more serious than a typical theft charge. Even some burglary charges can only land you in prison for up to one year.
Not so with robbery charges. It is vital that you put up a strong defense and fight the charges against you. Some common defense strategies used in robbery cases include:
- Wrong Person/False Accusation: Maybe it just wasn’t you. If you can give an alibi for where you were at the time of the robbery, or prove that you don’t match the victim’s description of the robber, you may have your charges dropped.
- Intoxication: This isn’t always an accepted defense, but when applicable, could be effective. Intoxication often leads people to do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. If you can prove that the intoxication was involuntary, you will have a better chance at being successful with this defense.
- Entrapment or Duress: If you were pushed into committing the robbery against your will, you may be able to get your charges dropped. This is not always an easy defense strategy, especially if the party that forced you to commit the robbery won’t fess up.
Your best defense strategy is recruiting a Minnesota robbery lawyer who can guide you through your case. Experienced representation will be able to choose the most appropriate defense strategy for your case, and give you the best chance at a positive outcome.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).