If you are accused of taking something from someone by force or threat of force, you can be charged with robbery in Virginia. A charge of robbery is very serious and involves the risk of severe penalties that will affect the rest of your life.
If you or someone you care for has been charged with robbery in Virginia, Bryan J. Jones can provide you with the advice you need to best protect your rights. Never assume that you will be found guilty just because you are charged with a crime.
Robbery Charge in Virginia
To be convicted of a charge of robbery in Virginia under Virginia Code § 18.2-58, the Virginia prosecutor must prove all of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- A taking;
- By violence, force, threats, or intimidation;
- Of personal property;
- From a person or in his or her presence;
- With the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property.
The offense can be punished under Virginia Code § 18.2-58 if a person committed the robbery by:
- Partial strangulation;
- Striking or beating;
- Assault by placing a person in fear of serious bodily harm; or
- By threatening to present or actually presenting a firearm or other deadly weapon during the offense.
A person "takes" another's property when they acquire unlawful control over that property and move it away from the proper owner or current possessor.
The Virginia prosecutor must prove that the offender took personal property from another person. The property does not necessarily need to be owned by the person from whom it was taken.
From a Person or in His or Her Presence
Robbery occurs when personal property is taken by force from a person, or in his or her presence. If a person is close enough to the personal property to have actual physical control over the property, it is in that person's presence. In Virginia, a business is considered a person for purposes of this offense. If the taking did not occur in a person's presence, the offense is a crime of a lesser degree.
The offender must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the personal property. This must be proven by the Virginia prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt.
The violence must occur during or prior to the taking. It can be proven by showing force, threats, or any of the other listed forms of violence in Virginia Code § 18.2-58. Violence can also be shown through intimidation, which is putting a victim in fear of harm.
Penalties for Robbery in Virginia
Robbery is a serious crime, and the penalties are also severe. Robbery is punished by:
- A minimum prison sentence of 5 years;
- A maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
How long of a prison sentence you might face depends largely on the facts of your individual case. The more severe the crime, the more serious the potential penalties. In any case, you now face the "felon" label, which will make it difficult to find and maintain employment after release from prison.
Even if the actual offense is not completed, the offense of attempted robbery is another serious offense. Attempted robbery is a Class 4 felony, and if convicted you face the following possible penalties:
- A minimum of 2 years in prison;
- A maximum of 10 years in prison;
- A fine of up to $100,000.
Defenses to Robbery Charges in Virginia
While every case is different, and different defenses may apply to your case, your Virginia criminal attorney can analyze the unique facts of your case to present the best defense. Some of the following could be used to prevent or reduce your conviction.
Present Reasonable Doubt
A Virginia prosecutor is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of the charge. Your criminal defense attorney can show that there are inconsistencies in the prosecutor's case, creating doubt in the mind of the jury. Your attorney can also attempt to show that you were not the guilty party, or your conduct was not violent.
Challenge the Violence Element of the Charge
Many prosecutors overcharge a theft offense. In many cases, the conduct at issue in the case does not meet the definition of "violence" necessary for the charge. If your conduct does not rise to the level necessary to prove a robbery charge, your charges could be reduced or even dismissed.
Challenge the Issue of Presence
In a charge for robbery, it is crucial that the Virginia prosecutor prove that the offense occurred to a person or in his or her presence. Especially in cases where the Commonwealth argues that you were in a person's presence, the facts of the case may be challenged to show that the alleged victim in the case does not meet the definition.
Eye Witness Identification
In many cases, eyewitness identification can simply be wrong. A suspect may be innocent and accused of a crime only because he or she looks vaguely like the individual who actually committed the crime. With proper investigation and a challenge from your attorney, the jury can see the many problems with eyewitness identification.
Further, police line-ups must conform to specific constitutional requirements. If the line up which was used to identify you was not properly performed, that evidence against you could be suppressed.
Suppression of Evidence
Suppression is a legal mechanism which excludes evidence which was wrongfully acquired by the prosecution. If law enforcement did not follow the constitutional requirements for the collection of evidence, such as when a warrant is required, that evidence which was wrongfully obtained can be excluded from your case. In some instances, this can result in the dismissal of your charges, especially if the evidence connected you in some way to the case.
Consult Your Virginia Defense Attorney
A felony conviction for robbery has serious consequences, including 5 years in prison up to a life sentence. An experienced Virginia attorney knows the law and will use it to defend your case. Even if the police and prosecutor treat you like you are guilty, you still have legal rights and defenses.
Contact Virginia criminal defense attorney Bryan J. Jones to fight for your constitutional rights throughout the criminal process. He represents clients in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding counties.