Many of you have commented on the Leominster man that is charged with armed robbery after allegedly using a knife in a store robbery last weekend. In general, the government may prove an armed robbery if they show that an individual was armed with a dangerous weapon; that he applied actual force or violence to the body of the alleged victim, or put the alleged victim in fear by threatening words or gestures; that he took money or other property from the alleged victim with the intent to steal it; and that he took the property from the possession or immediate control of the alleged victim.
An often litigated issue in armed robbery cases is whether the item qualifies as a dangerous weapon. The term “dangerous weapon” under the armed robbery statute is a term of art and it includes any instrument that by the nature of its construction or the manner of its use is capable of causing grievous bodily injury or death, or could be perceived by a reasonable person as capable of such injury. This would include obvious examples such as firearms and knives, yet it would also include a pencil, if someone held it in their hand and was perceived as willing to stab another with it.
Another often litigated issue is whether or not it has to be shown by the Commonwealth that the person charged actually possessed a dangerous weapon, or whether it is sufficient that the alleged victim perceived the defendant as having a dangerous weapon. The case law is conflicting in this area, yet it seems likely that the court will allow the charge to stand if it is perceived that the defendant has a dangerous weapon, and it isn’t specifically shown that his possession of such a weapon was impossible.
As a result, if you or someone you know is charged with armed robbery, there may be substantial defenses to explore. Go with a criminal attorney who will fight for you and your rights.