Updated November 3, 2021; Original Post: May 4, 2018
Were you recently charged with robbery in Texas? Do you want to learn how to defend yourself against robbery charges? In every instance, Robbery charges are felony crimes in Texas. When you are facing serious criminal charges like a robbery, you need the best criminal defense attorneys in your corner protecting your freedom and your clean criminal record. In this post, we’re going to detail the Texas criminal laws on robbery and explain common legal defenses that you may be able to use to fight your charges.
Definition of Robbery in Texas
According to the Texas statutes, robbery is when, while committing a theft, someone:
“(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
(2) intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.”
Robbery is defined as “aggravated” if:
- The act of robbery causes another person serious bodily injury
- The act of robbery involves the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon (defined as any item where its intended use was to cause serious bodily injury or death)
- The act of robbery causes bodily injury to someone or makes someone afraid of imminent bodily injury or death and they are
- 65 years of age or older
- disabled with a mental, physical, or developmental disability and “substantially unable” to protect themselves from harm
Robbery is a second degree felony in Texas, and aggravated robbery is a first degree felony. Since felony charges are serious, you must seek skilled criminal defense counsel right away to minimize the negative impact of your charges.
To further break down the law of robbery in Texas, let’s examine the elements of theft and apply them to robbery. In order to prove the crime of robbery, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally or knowingly took or converted property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Additionally, the State of Texas must also prove that you then caused “bodily injury” to this individual during the commission of theft.
What does “bodily injury” mean? Does it require proof of bruising or scrapes or bleeding? No. Texas robbery law states that the word of the alleged victim claiming “pain” is sufficient, by itself, for a police officer to develop probable cause for the crime of robbery. This is problematic because it permits an angry alleged victim to exaggerate the nature of the contact in order to place the defendant in more serious trouble.
For example: an 18 year old is in the electronic section of a local shopping market and finds a few video games he decides to try to steal. He hides the video games in his coat and makes his way past all points of sale and out the front door. Loss prevention officers at the store spot the young man grab the videos and walk out of the store and they race to confront him about the theft. The young man turns around and see the loss prevention officers and starts running. As the loss prevention officer catches up to him, he pulls away from him and they both fall to the ground. Our client was not attempting to hurt the alleged victim in any way but the loss prevention officer claims to the police that he was injured when he fell and the police arrest and charge our client with the crime of robbery. Is this fair? Can the prosecutor prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt? NO! Although the State of Texas may be able to easily prove the misdemeanor crime of theft, they will not be able to prove the felony crime of robbery because of criminal intent. By pulling away and both falling down, it will be very difficult to prove that our client intentionally or knowingly caused bodily injury to the loss prevention officer. This is a good example of why your experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer must examine all the facts to determine if each and every element of the crime of robbery can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
What if a theft occurred and the presence of a weapon made the alleged victim claim to be in fear of death or serious bodily injury? You have to examine this situation very carefully. It is very common for alleged victims in this situation to jump to conclusions and believe the mere presence of the gun was sufficient to make them fear for their life.
For example: a young man is hanging out with some friends when another school mate drives up in their car and confronts them. The driver of the car asks the young man if he “lost” his phone. Our client believed his phone was stolen earlier that day and when he looks down at the drive, he sees a phone that looks identical to his and believes the drive is taunting him with his phone. Our client has a concealed carry license and his weapon is on him in a holster under his coat. As he reaches down to take the phone he believes to be his, the driver sees the gun in the holster and panics. The police are called and the alleged victim informs the police the phone was his phone and he saw a gun being “brandished.” Our client was subsequently arrested for aggravated robbery. Can this 1st degree felony aggravated robbery charge be substantiated? NO! Why? Because at no time did our client pull out the weapon, point it at the driver or threaten the driver in any way. In fact, our client had a reasonable belief that the phone in the driver’s possession was his phone by the way he was speaking to him.
In this situation, the aggravated robbery case could be presented to a felony grand jury for review. After hearing the specific facts of the case and recognizing no threats were made, the gun remained in the holster and the client believed the phone to be his, the grand jury decided the client acted reasonably and no crime had occurred. In this situation, it is critical that your criminal defense attorney take advantage of the grand jury process to attempt to get your robbery case lowered to a lesser misdemeanor charge of theft or have your case no billed by a grand jury, the equivalent of a dismissal.
Common Defenses to Texas Robbery Charges
A knowledgeable Fort Worth criminal defense attorney can help you find solid criminal defenses to your robbery charges. Here are some common strategies that defense lawyers use in robbery cases:
Lack of Evidence
The evidence is insufficient to prove that you are guilty. The prosecution must be able to prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can provide evidence to the contrary, or if there is not enough evidence to support the prosecution’s claim, your case may be dropped. Under our U.S. and Texas Constitution, you are presumed innocent UNTIL proven guilty. I know it may not feel that way when the court system is treating you like a criminal but the burden of proof always remain on the State of Texas to prove you did something criminal.
Lack of Criminal Intent
Remember, even if the prosecutor can prove a theft took place, if there is no proof that you intentionally or knowingly contacted the alleged victim in a manner that caused them pain, the prosecutor will not have a charge of robbery. Through the efforts of your criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to get your robbery charge dropped to a lesser misdemeanor theft charge so that your freedom is protected and you are not a convicted felon.
No Intent To Permanently Deprive The Owner Of The Property
It is common that bad robbery cases were really just an exaggerated assault or theft charge. If an assault took place but the theft was incidental or not an intentional part of the encounter, a reasonable doubt could be created as to the crime of robbery.
For example: two young men get into a fist fight with each other arguing over another girl. In the process of the fight, they spill their phone, wallet and other items on the ground while they fight. As other people jump in to break up the fight, our client gathers what he believes is his phone and wallet. Later on, it is determined that he took the other person’s belongings, which leads to a robbery charge. Here, we clearly have an assault, not a robbery. Although an assault may have occurred, without separately proving that the client intentionally or knowingly permanently deprived the owner of his property, there is no robbery crime.
You have a reasonable explanation for where you were when the crime occurred. A solid alibi means you could not have committed the crime. If you were at another location or function and there were witnesses who are willing to provide sworn affidavits or if you have receipts or photos clearly establishing you were in a different place at the same time as the alleged robbery, your robbery case may be dismissed. If your attorney can prove you are innocent, your case will be dismissed.
In some cases, the property believed to be part of a theft crime is actually owned by the accused. If you have evidence to support that you owned the property in question, charges should not apply to you.
If you were forced to commit robbery against your will, and you would not have otherwise committed the crime, you may be able to use this defense. This defense can be more difficult to support than others, but if you have evidence to show that you were set up by the victim, it may work for you. An experienced lawyer will be able to argue the entrapment defense if it applies to your case.
This defense works if someone threatened you to commit the crime or harm would come to you or a family member. Duress is another difficult defense to prove, and you should consult with a skilled attorney before trying this method.
Enlisting the Help of a Knowledgeable Texas Robbery Attorney
Since a robbery conviction can affect the course of your life, you must consult with a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as charges are filed against you.
If you are convicted of a felony here, you will face years in prison and steep fines. A robbery conviction could result in 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you cause no bodily harm and do not threaten anyone, you could still face a state jail felony with a sentence of 180 days to two years in state jail, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
A conviction for aggravated robbery will result in a sentence of 5-99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Just as frustrating, upon getting out of prison, you may have trouble finding work or quality housing, securing loans or obtaining licenses. Your right to vote and your right to own a firearm may be permanently revoked. An experienced Texas lawyer will be able to find a defense that works for you.
Call today for a free, no-obligation case review. We have handled many other cases like yours and helped our clients find successful outcomes. Don’t wait – call us today for the help you deserve.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.