ARS § 13-1902 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of robbery. People commit this offense when, in the course of stealing property from another person, they use threats or force to complete the stealing. Violations of this law are Class 4 felonies punishable by prison sentences of up to three years.
The language of ARS 13-1902 states that:
A. A person commits robbery if in the course of taking any property of another from his person or immediate presence and against his will, such person threatens or uses force against any person with intent either to coerce surrender of property or to prevent resistance to such person taking or retaining property.
B. Robbery is a class 4 felony.
Arizona’s robbery statutes include the following:
- threatening to punch a person if they try to stop taking a backpack.
- grabbing a woman’s purse and elbowing her in the ribs when she tries to resist.
- pickpocketing someone and threatening to “end” the person to help complete the crime.
Defendants can try to challenge robbery charges with a legal defense. A few possible defenses include accused persons showing that they:
- did not use threats or force,
- had a right to the property, and/or
- were the victim of mistaken identity.
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “robbery”?
People in the State of Arizona are guilty of robbery if they:
- try and take a person’s property from his/her person or immediate presence,
- engage in the use of force, the threat of force, or some other threat, and
- do so with the intent to either make the “victim” surrender the property or prevent the “victim” from resisting.1
Note that defendants are guilty of robbery offenses even if their use or threatened use of force is not directed at the alleged victim. A threat against any person while taking property is sufficient to warrant a robbery conviction.2
Note that “threat,” per this statute, means a verbal or physical menace of imminent physical injury to a person.3
“Force” means any physical act directed against a person to gain control or property.4
A threat or use of force does not require that a person act with a:
- deadly weapon, or
- dangerous instrument.
Rather, those items are required for armed robbery charges or aggravated robbery charges.
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1902?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help accused people defend against criminal charges under this criminal code section. Three common ones include showing that defendants:
- did not use threats or uses of force.
- believed they had a right to the property.
- were victims of mistaken identity.
2.1 No threat or use of force
Recall that people are only guilty under this statute if they try to take a person’s property using threats or force. Also, “threat” and “force” have precise legal definitions. A defense, therefore, is for an accused to show that while he/she may have tried to take some property, he/she did not do so by using threats or force.
2.2 Property right
Defendants commit robbery when they take someone else’s property. This means a person accused of robbery can always defend against the accusation by showing that he/she had a legal right to the property in question. If so, then the person cannot be guilty of taking anything.
2.3 Mistaken identity
Robbery “victims” do not always get a clear look at the offender. This is because people often commit the crime when it is dark out or while wearing a mask or other disguise. It is always a defense for defendants to show that a “victim” identified them as a suspect by mistake.
3. What are the penalties?
Arizona treats robbery as both a serious offense and a dangerous offense.
As such, the state says that the crime is a Class 4 felony.5
A first offense under this statute is punishable by prison time of one to three years. Felony convictions will result in steeper penalties when a defendant has prior convictions.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to robbery. These are:
- theft – ARS 13-1802,
- 2nd-degree burglary – ARS 13-1507, and
- aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204.
4.1. Theft – ARS 13-1802
Per ARS 13-1802, theft is the offense where people knowingly use or take someone else’s property or services without lawful authority to do so.
Note that theft is essentially robbery without a person using threats or force.
As with robbery, defendants can defend against theft charges by showing they had a legal right to the property.
4.2. 2nd-degree burglary – ARS 13-1507
Under ARS 13-1507, burglary is a crime when:
- a person unlawfully enters or remains in or on a residential structure, and
- he/she does so with the intent to commit any theft or felony once inside.
Robbery is a felony offense that would trigger a burglary charge.
4.3. Aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204
Per ARS 13-1204, aggravated assault is an offense when:
- a person assaults another person, and
- he/she does so by means of certain aggravating factors (for example, assaulting someone and causing serious physical injury).
Note that if a person commits robbery and does so after using force against the “victim” that causes serious injury, then the person can be charged with both:
- robbery, per ARS 13-1902, and
- aggravated assault, per ARS 13-13-1204.