A College Station man was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for an aggravated robbery conviction. During the robbery, he told an employee he had a 9 mm handgun with exactly seven rounds in the magazine. He then showed her the gun.
The robber got away with nothing more than a bit of cash from the register before he was apprehended in a WalMart parking lot less than two miles from the crime scene.
Although he did not discharge his weapon during the course of the robbery, the offense was considered aggravated due to his display of a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime.
The line between robbery and aggravated robbery is often thin, and in some cases is even open to interpretation. Despite these subtleties, you see with this case the consequences if convicted of aggravated robbery can be severe.
They are vastly different than those of simple robbery. Let’s take a look at what, exactly, constitutes an aggravated robbery, and the increased sentencing you could face if convicted.
How Texas Law Defines Robbery
In the offense of robbery, the defendant takes the property of another directly from that person with the use or threat of force. In Texas, robbery is defined as:
- Committing theft; and
- While in the course of that theft, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, threatening the victim, or causing the victim to fear bodily injury or death
Note, the charge of robbery does not require the use of a weapon, or that the defendant caused bodily injury to the victim. Merely using force or the threat of force while committing theft is considered robbery.
Regardless of the other circumstances surrounding the offense, robbery is considered a violent offense and is taken very seriously by Texas courts.
So what qualifies a robbery to be aggravated then?
What Makes a Robbery Aggravated in Texas?
Under one or more of the following circumstances, the charge of robbery is elevated to that of aggravated robbery:
- The defendant caused bodily injury to another person in the commission of the offense
- The defendant used or displayed a deadly weapon in the commission of the robbery
- The victim was disabled or over 65 years of age
It is also possible, and even common, to commit aggravated robbery without actually hurting anyone. The simple display of a weapon, or committing robbery against a protected class of victim, is enough. When these things happen, the charge of aggravated robbery applies.
Aggravated: Small Word, Big Difference in Texas Sentencing
In Texas, simple robbery is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years in prison. This is absolutely a serious charge with severe criminal consequences but pales in comparison to an aggravated robbery charge.
Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony. The only other class of offense considered more severe? Murder. A first-degree felony is punishable by 5-99 years in prison.
This means that if convicted, instead of a few years behind bars, you may well spend the remainder of your life in jail.
An Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Despite the profound difference in sentencing, the actual circumstances of simple versus aggravated robbery are often quite similar, as well. In some cases, the difference isn’t clear-cut, even to the prosecution.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney may be able to argue this point.
There may be an opportunity to even have your aggravated robbery charge reduced to simple robbery, which has much less severe sentencing. There are also a number of defense strategies available that may be able to help your case.
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.