Updated March 24, 2020
In NRS 200.380, Nevada law defines the crime of robbery as stealing property from a person by means of violence, force, or fear of injury. Both robbery and attempted robbery are prosecuted as category B felonies that carry 2 to 15 years in prison. The sentence can be twice as long if the defendant was armed with a deadly weapon.
- Holding up a cashier with a gun
- Threatening to hurt a man if he does not hand over his wallet
- Mugging a woman by ripping her purse off her shoulder
The statute states:
Robbery is the unlawful taking of personal property from the person of another, or in the person’s presence, against his or her will, by means of force or violence or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his or her person, or the person of a member of his or her family, or of anyone in his or her company at the time of the robbery.
Robbery is a category B felony. If the defendant had no firearm or deadly weapon, the sentence is 2 to 15 years in prison. But this sentence can double in cases of armed robbery (“aggravated robbery”).
Potential defense strategies in NRS 200.380 cases are to argue that:
- The defendant was misidentified;
- The defendant used no force or threats; or
- The defendant never took or tried to take anything
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is the legal definition of robbery under NRS 200.380?
- 2. What are the penalties in Nevada?
- 3. What are common robbery defenses?
- 4. What are the immigration consequences?
- 5. Can the record be sealed?
NRS 200.380 defines robbery as unlawfully taking property from someone in their presence. And the robber uses force, violence, or fear of injury on either:
- The victim,
- The victim’s family, or
- Anyone in the victim’s company at the time
The “fear of injury” can be immediate or in the future. The “force” can slight or injurious. And it does not matter whether the force, violence, or fear of injury is used to:
- Obtain or retain possession of the property;
- Prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing; or
- Facilitate the robber’s escape1
Note that robbery is a separate crime from burglary (NRS 205.060). Burglary is entering a building or vehicle with the intent to commit a crime inside. Unlike robbery, burglary does not require force, threats, other people, or stealing. (Although many burglaries do involve theft.)
So while robbery is a crime against a person, burglary and larceny are crimes against property.
Nevada law classifies robbery as a category B felony. The punishment turns on whether the defendant used tear gas or a deadly weapon. Robbery with a deadly weapon is sometimes called aggravated robbery or armed robbery.
“Deadly weapons” include any object that could be used to cause death. Examples are:
- Firearms, such as pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns
- Knives, such as dirks, daggers, machetes, and switchblades
- Throwing stars
- Broken glass
But if the defendant used tear gas or deadly weapon during the robbery, the judge must order an additional sentence of 1 to 15 years. This sentence must run consecutively -- not concurrently -- with the underlying sentence. And the judge may not grant probation or a suspended sentence.
When determining the length of the additional sentence, judges consider the following five factors:
- The facts and circumstances of the case;
- The defendant’s criminal history (if any);
- How the robbery impacted the victim (such as post-traumatic stress);
- Any mitigating factors (facts that make the defendant less blameworthy, such as having a rough childhood); and
- Any other relevant information
Note that it is not necessary that the defendant wave around or fire the weapon to get this enhanced sentence. Merely having a knife or gun in a belt holster is sufficient as long as the victim knows it is there.
Example: Jerry is a cashier at a 7-Eleven. Suddenly a man appears and demands all the cash. Jerry then sees that the man has a gun on his belt. Here, the man could face robbery charges with an enhanced sentence. Even though the man did not hold up the gun, Jerry could see it. And it contributed to the “force or fear” that Jerry felt.
Had the robber in the above example had a gun in his pocket that Jerry could not see, then the defense attorney can argue that the judge should not impose an enhanced sentence. Having a deadly weapon is not the same as using it.2
Learn more about using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony (NRSR 193.165).
2.1. Attempted robbery
Attempted robbery is trying -- and failing -- to steal through violence, force, or fear of injury. Attempted robbery is also a category B felony. But the penalty range is 1 -- 10 years in prison. And if the defendant used a weapon, the enhanced sentence can be no more than 10 additional years.3
Three common defenses that may get robbery charges reduced or dismissed are:
- The defendant was misidentified
- The defendant used no force or fear of injury
- The defendant did not take -- or try to take -- anything
Another possible defense in most criminal cases is that the police committed misconduct. If the police found evidence through an illegal search, the defendant can ask the court to disregard (“suppress“) it. Then the D.A. may be left with too little evidence to prosecute.
3.1. The defendant was misidentified
Many robbers wear masks and gloves. And robberies often occur quickly. Therefore, victims may be unable to accurately describe the culprit. Or pick the culprit out of a lineup. And even if there is surveillance video, it may be too grainy to make a positive ID.
Prosecutors have the burden to prove defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If defense attorneys can raise this doubt by arguing misidentification, the charge should be dismissed.
3.2. The defendant used no force or fear of injury
A key element of NRS 200.380 charges is that the defendant uses force or fear to steal. Simply pick-pocketing without the victim’s knowledge is a less serious offense.
Example: Helen’s phone goes missing from her purse. She uses the “find my phone” feature and traces it to Floyd Lamb Park. There, she sees the waiter who served her earlier playing on Helen’s stolen phone. Helen calls the police and tells them the waiter robbed her.
The police arrest the waiter for robbery. But the waiter explains he snatched the phone when Helen was not looking. Video from the restaurant confirms this. So the D.A. reduces the charge to larceny from a person (NRS 205.270). This carries lesser penalties than robbery.
Many people use the words “rob” and “steal” interchangeably. But robbery is more serious because it involves threats or violence.
3.3. The defendant did not take -- or try to take -- anything
Another key element of NRS 200.380 charges is that the defendant steals -- or attempts to steal. Simply scaring someone is not robbery if there was no taking.
Example: One night Max accosts a woman in downtown Las Vegas and holds up his fist at her. The woman immediately holds out her purse and tells him to take anything he wants. Max then walks away without taking anything.
The woman calls the police, who then arrest Max for attempted robbery. But Max’s attorney explains to the D.A. that he never demanded her purse or tried to take it. Max just wanted to give her a scare. The D.A. then reduces the charge to simple assault (NRS 200.471), which is only a misdemeanor.
Had Max in the above example ended up taking the purse, then he probably could be convicted of robbery. It would not matter that he originally did not intend to steal anything.4
Robbery can be a deportable offense.5 Therefore, non-citizens facing robbery charges should consult with an attorney immediately. The attorney may be able to broker a plea bargain where the charge gets reduced to a non-deportable crime.
Nevada robbery convictions must remain on defendants’ records for 10 years. After that, defendants can pursue a record seal.
Robbery cases that get dismissed may be sealed immediately.6 Though the process can take months. Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Arrested for robbery? Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are here for you. We will fight to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Call us or fill out the form on this page. All consultations are free. And we are here 24/7.
In California? See our article on robbery laws (Penal Code 211 PC).
In Colorado? See our article on robbery laws (CRS 18-4-301, 18-4-302, 18-4 -303).
- NRS 200.380; Barkley v. State, 114 Nev. 635, 958 P.2d 1218 (1998).
- NRS 200.380.
- NRS 193.330.
- Thomas v. State, 120 Nev. 37, 83 P.3d 818 (2004).
- 8 U.S.C. § 1227.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.