ARS § 13-1904 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of armed robbery. People commit this offense when they rob someone and do so while either armed with a deadly weapon or while using or threatening to use a deadly weapon. A violation of this law is a Class 2 felony punishable by over 12 years in state prison.
The language of ARS § 13-1904 reads as follows:
A. A person commits armed robbery if, in the course of committing robbery as proscribed in section 13-1902, the person or an accomplice does any of the following:
1. Is armed with a deadly weapon or a simulated deadly weapon.
2. Uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or a simulated deadly weapon.
3. Takes possession of or attempts to take possession of a deadly weapon.
B. Armed robbery is a class 2 felony.
Arizona’s robbery statutes include the following:
- taking someone’s wallet with a concealed handgun.
- stealing a woman’s purse while an accomplice points a firearm at the “victim.”
- snatching a person’s briefcase while holding a gun to the person’s back.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help defendants challenge armed robbery charges. Some of these include an attorney showing that the defendant:
- did not have a weapon,
- was a victim of an unlawful search or seizure, and/or
- was a 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 “armed robbery”?
Arizona’s criminal laws say that people are guilty of armed robbery when they:
- commit the crime of robbery, and
- do so while either armed with a deadly weapon or simulated weapon, or
- do so while using or threatening to use a deadly weapon or a simulated deadly weapon.i
People commit “robbery” when, in the course of stealing property from someone’s person or immediate presence, they use a threat of force or actual force to complete the stealing.ii
For purposes of this statute, a “deadly weapon” includes obvious lethal weapons such as guns and knives.
But other objects can be deadly weapons if they are used in a way that could:
- kill someone, or
- cause them substantial harm.
Some examples may include:
- a tire iron,iii
- an unloaded gun (if used to club or hit someone),
- a bottle (if used to attack someone),
- a BB gun, and
- a car (used in an attempt to run someone down).
Note that a “simulated deadly weapon” is an imitation deadly weapon. For example, a person can create a simulated deadly weapon by using his/her concealed hands to create the appearance of a gun or weapon.iv
Further, armed robbery does not require that an alleged victim feel threatened by a defendant’s weapon or that the accused used the weapon to cause physical injury. The mere fact that a defendant had a weapon is what triggers the offense.v
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1904?
People accused of criminal charges under this statute can challenge them with a legal defense/disclaimer. Three common defenses include showing that:
- the accused did not have a weapon.
- law enforcement conducted an unlawful search or seizure.
- the defendant was a victim of mistaken identity.
2.1. No weapon
People are only guilty of armed robbery if they robbed someone while armed with a deadly weapon or while using one. This means that it is always a defense for a defendant to show that he/she did not try to steal something with a weapon. Note, though, that the person could still be found guilty of an underlying robbery offense.
2.2. Unlawful search or seizure
Defendants are sometimes charged with this offense after the police obtain a weapon following a search and seizure. If, though, law enforcement did search or seize something without a search warrant, or without a lawful exception for not having a warrant, then the object seized can get removed from evidence. The result could mean a reduction in charges or a judge dropping a case in its entirety.
2.3. Mistaken identity
“Victims” of robbery often misidentify a suspect. This is because people often try to commit the crime when it is dark out or while wearing a disguise or mask. Therefore, a defendant can always try to raise the defense that he/she was a victim of mistaken identity.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of this law is a felony offense. In particular, a violation is a Class 2 felony.
The crime is punishable by a prison sentence of between three years and twelve years, six months.
Sometimes armed robbery gets classified as a “dangerous offense” under Arizona law. If so, the crime is punishable by a prison term of seven and 21 years.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to armed 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
Under ARS 13-1802, theft is the crime where someone knowingly uses or takes another person’s property or services without lawful authority to do so.
Unlike with armed robbery, a person does not have to have or use a weapon to commit this crime. A person only has to take the property of another.
4.2. 2nd-degree burglary – ARS 13-1507
Per ARS 13-1507, second-degree burglary is when a person:
- unlawfully enters or remains in or on a residential structure, and
- does so with the intent to commit any theft or felony once inside.
Note that Arizona law makes a distinction between first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary is when a person commits a burglary under ARS 13-1507 and does so while in the possession of:
- a deadly weapon, or
- a dangerous instrument.
As with ARS 13-1904, a deadly weapon is required for both armed robbery and first-degree burglary.
4.3. Aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204
Under ARS 13-1204, aggravated assault is the crime where someone:
- assaults another person, and
- does so by means of certain aggravating factors (for example, by assaulting someone with a deadly weapon).
If someone commits armed robbery and then assaults the “victim” with the weapon used in the robbery offense, then the police can charge the person with both:
- armed robbery, and
- aggravated assault.