Chicago Armed Robbery Charge
Under Illinois law a person commits armed robbery if he:
- Takes property;
- From the person or presence of another;
- By force or threat of imminent use of force.
Conviction on an armed robbery charge requires that the prosecution prove each of these four elements. If a single element cannot be proven, then the armed robbery charge must be either dismissed or reduced.
As discussed in previous blog entries, the “knowingly” requirement means that armed robbery is a specific intent crime. The defendant must have actually intended to forcibly take property from another person. This element isn’t usually difficult for the prosecution to prove, as it is hard to imagine a situation where a person could mistakenly take another person’s property by force. The one example that jumps to mind would be a situation where the defendant takes property from another under the mistaken belief that it was his (the defendant’s) property.
It is unclear whether the defendant stole merchandise, cash from the store, personal belongings of shop attendants and/or customers, or a combination. But for purposes of committing armed robbery, it doesn’t matter the type or value of the item taken; there simply had to be property stolen.
The defendant was charged with robbery of multiple stores, and charges for robbery from other stores may be pending. The prosecution must prove that for each charged incident, the defendant actually took property from a person, or in their presence (more on that below). This element is the difference between a charge of armed robbery and aggravated battery or aggravated assault.
If the defendant ran out of the store without taking any property – he got spooked that the cops were coming or was chased off, for example – then he could not be charged with armed robbery. He could be charged with battery (if he made contact with anybody in the store) or assault (no contact, but put them in fear of contact), but not armed robbery, since no property would be taken. Being able to reduce even one of the armed robbery charges to aggravated assault or battery could mean the difference between several years in prison.
From the person or presence of another
Armed robbery requires that the property be taken from the person (think grabbing a purse out of a woman’s hands), or in their presence (swiping something from the counter as the cash register attendant looks on). If an item was stolen from the counter while the salesperson was in the back, then the defendant cannot be convicted of armed robbery.
By force or threat of imminent use of force
The final element of armed robbery requires that the defendant stole the item by force or by threatening the use of imminent force. Grabbing the purse out of the victim’s hands qualifies as force. Threatening the victim with a stabbing, beating, or some other use of force if he doesn’t turn over the property qualifies as a threat of force. Even if it is later shown that the defendant was bluffing – that he in fact had no weapon on him, so the threatened use of a knife or other weapon could never have been fulfilled – he can still be charged with armed robbery. Putting the victim in fear of physical harm is sufficient to meet this element.