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The Law on Robbery in Washington

This is the Law on Robbery in Washington

Robbery is a serious offence in Washington. The FBI describes it as the act of taking or attempting to take anything of value from the control, custody, or care of another person, using force. When robbery is alleged, it is expected that property is taken by force or threat of force or violence. It may also be taken by putting the victim in fear of immediate harm.

Due to the impact that robbery has on the security of individuals and families, allegations of robbery are usually taken seriously. Washington state law also provides very stiff penalties for individuals that are found guilty of robbery. This is why a charge of robbery often spells serious trouble for those on the receiving end.

Individuals faced with a robbery charge in Washington, stand to lose a lot. Conviction will affect not only their freedom but also important aspects of their lives afterwards. Conviction makes it difficult to secure employment, accommodation, access to loans or even education. Quite simply, conviction will often result in terrible consequences for the defendant.  

However, having a capable and experienced criminal attorney by your side makes all the difference. At The Curtis Firm, we know what it's like to battle inside and outside of the courtroom, having been on the other side as a prosecuting attorney for over a decade.

We keenly understand the terrible consequences that may follow a robbery conviction. This is why we are committed to doing everything legally possible to secure positive outcomes for our clients. Our considerable experience and proven background puts us in a unique position to fight for you and win for you.

Definition and elements of robbery

Robbery involves taking or attempting to take property belonging to another person using force. Under Washington State Law, force or fear of force must also be used to keep possession of the stolen property. Such force is often used to prevent or overcome resistance to taking or repossession of the property. In many cases, the victim suffers a degree of harm or has to endure the threat of potential harm.

The law also states that the taking forms a robbery if the taking was fully completed without the knowledge of the owner of the property because the knowledge was prevented by the use of force or fear.

In Washington, robbery is generally treated as an aggravated form of common law larceny. But, there are some elements in robbery that make it a more serious crime than larceny. For a crime to be legally termed as robbery, the following elements must have been in place.

  • There must have been ‘taking' of property. The property in question must belong to another person and it must have been taken to permanently deprive the owner of the property;
  • The owner of the property must have been present when the ‘taking' occurred; and
  • There must have been use of violence or threat of violence. It is usually fairly easy to establish that violence occurred if there was physical contact. It should however be noted that there is no legal baseline for how much contact suffices. Even the smallest degree of physical contact may constitute use of violence.

This also means that physical force does not need to be applied to the body before the use of violence can be established. It is enough to prove that the act incited a significant feeling of fear in the victim, which caused the victim to give up his or her possessions.

The violence must also have been used as part of the crime. If violence was used after the theft in escaping capture by law enforcement, for instance, the act would not amount to robbery.

The elements of the crime being committed in the presence of the victim and the use of violence or threat of violence are what bumps up the charge of larceny to robbery. This is because larceny can be committed in the absence of the victim, while robbery can only be committed if the victim was present.

Different ways in which robbery can be committed

One of the features of a charge of robbery is that it can allege commission of the offence in varied circumstances. Several of these circumstances have come to have their own unique names, such as carjacking. The ways in which robbery may be committed include the following:

  • Robbery committed inside residences, which is also known as home invasion robbery.
  • Robbery committed by taking a vehicle from the driver by force or violence, which is also known as carjacking.
  • Robbery committed with the use of deadly weapons, which is also known as armed robbery.
  • Robbery committed against taxicab drivers, or people shopping in a store.
  • Robbery committed against people in a public or semipublic place such as on the street, in an alley, parking garage, or public park. This is known as street robbery.

It should also be noted that both objects designed to be used as weapons and regular, everyday objects can be considered deadly weapons. What this means is that everyday objects such as bricks, heavy pieces of art or even a shoe used to hit a person in the head, can be considered as deadly weapons. They can be considered deadly just as clubs, knives and guns are considered deadly weapons.

Washington Robbery: First Degree or Second Degree?

Under Washington law, there are different degrees of robbery. These degrees refer to the seriousness of the offence and the punishments that will be attached to them. There are basically two degrees here, robbery in the first and second degree.

Robbery in the first degree

In Washington, robbery in the first degree occurs when a person commits an act of robbery while:

  • Armed with a deadly weapon
  • He or she displays what appears to be a deadly weapon or firearm
  • Inflicting bodily injury on the victim(s)

It is also a first-degree robbery when the robbery was committed against a financial institution.

A first-degree robbery is regarded as a Class A felony and attracts stiff penalties. The stiffness of the penalty is dependent on the perpetrator's past criminal record. A first time offender without any prior criminal history could get a prison sentence of between 31 to 41 months. A repeat offender could get up to 15 years in prison, or a fine of up to $50,000 or both.

The state of Washington has a ‘three-strike law'. What this means is that anyone convicted of first degree armed robbery for the third time could face a sentence of life imprisonment.

Robbery in the second degree

This degree of robbery is less serious that robbery in the first degree. Robbery in the second degree occurs when:

  • No weapon was used
  • Nobody was injured
  • The act was not committed against a financial institution

Robbery in the second degree is classified as a Class B felony. While penalties can vary based on circumstances surrounding the robbery, a Class B felony typically carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

Sentencing for robbery in Washington

Robbery attracts stiff penalties in Washington, and there is usually prison time involved. However, judges normally look at the facts of a specific case before deciding on the exact sentence and penalties to impose on a convicted person.

The judge will also consider any aggravating or mitigating factors in the case. Some of the factors include:

  • The value of the stolen property
  • The level of intimidation or violence used
  • The nature of the victim: whether the victim was elderly or disabled

Aggravating factors increase the severity of the crime and its related charges while mitigating factors reduce it. In Washington, commission of a robbery while armed with a deadly weapon bumps up the charges to a first-degree offence.

What this means is that the presence of a weapon becomes an aggravating factor and will increase the length of sentence the judge is likely to impose. The criminal record of the defendant can also be an aggravating factor.

The criminal record can be a mitigating factor if the defendant was a first time offender. Other examples of mitigating factors include whether the defendant returned the stolen property or took responsibility for committing the crime.

How can an attorney help you?

In all our years defending clients like you, we have consistently come across one compelling fact: there are always two sides to a story. As your criminal law attorneys, our job at The Curtis Firm, LLC  is to ensure that your side of the story gets heard.

There are many factors that may operate in a robbery charge which can lead to unfair conviction. Allegations could be false, there could be a case of mistaken identity or the arrest itself could be improper.

When you contact us regarding an allegation of robbery, we will immediately get to work to investigate the circumstances of the allegations. We will make sure your rights have not been unfairly prejudiced. And if they have been prejudiced, we can help you take steps to defend the charge and dismiss the allegations. Under applicable circumstances, we will challenge the use of a deadly weapon, in order to ensure a reduction in the severity of the charge.

At The Curtis Firm, we know all these tactics and more. Having spent over a decade as a former prosecutor, we understand all the tactics of prosecution counsel, and this knowledge constitutes a powerful asset when defending you.

If you have been subject of a robbery allegation or charge, get in touch with us today. Call us on 253-327-1063 to book a free consultation or visit our offices at 1216 Martin Luther King Jr Way Suite 1 Tacoma, WA 98405.

Areas Served

The Curtis Firm, LLC serves the Seattle - Tacoma Area, including Pierce, King, and Thurston Counties.

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