Thursday, October 14, 2010

Air Jordans to Die For

In Illinois we have three basic types of robberies (not including car hijackings). Simple, aggravated, and armed. Simple robbery, also commonly called strong arm robbery, is taking property from another by the use of force or threatening the use of force. An example would be an offender that grabs your arm and takes your purse. Simple robbery is a Class 2 felony and can carry 3-7 years in prison.

Aggravated robbery adds the element of threatening the use of force while either saying or acting as if armed with a deadly weapon. An example is sticking your finger in a victim's back pretending you have a gun, saying it's a gun, and then taking their wallet. Curiously it's also aggravated robbery to make someone ingest a controlled substance without their consent and then taking property from them. I have yet to see a case dealing with the later description. Aggravated robbery is a Class 1 felony and can carry a prison term of 4-15 years.

Both simple and aggravated robbery are probationable.

Armed robbery is committing robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon. From my reading of the law, the weapon need not be used or displayed during the crime. Simply possessing it while committing the robbery is enough to bring the crime under the armed robbery statute.

What's a dangerous weapon? That should be pretty obvious: guns, knives, swords, brass knuckles, ninja swords, chainsaws, and bludgeons. What's a bludgeon? A bludgeon is anything that one could use to hit a victim with and cause serious bodily damage. Thus, it seems arguable that one could commit armed robbery with a large flashlight. Perhaps a bowling ball too. If you could bludgeon someone to death with it, it's a bludgeon.

Armed robbery is a Class X felony. It's not eligible for probation and carries 6-30 years in prison.

In Illinois we have sentencing enhancements for armed robbery cases where a firearm was used. And these enhancements are stiff.

Merely possessing a firearm during a robbery adds 15 years to the base felony sentence. Not up to 15 years. 15 years. It's also mandatory. The judge has no choice. The statute has the language "shall be sentenced {to an additional period of 15 years]" in it. It doesn't read the defendant may be sentenced, it reads shall be sentenced.

At trial if the State proved the robbery and the gun, the defendant would get an automatic 15 years added to the Class X sentence. Thus, the range would be between 21 and 45 years; 6-30 + 15 = 21 to 45.

Discharging the firearm adds 20 years. The State now has to prove the robbery, the gun, and that the gun was fired. I just about a case down in Peoria county where the offender shot the gun at a wall to show the victim it was real. He got 26 years.

25 years are added if the offender shoots the gun and it hits anyone and causes great bodily harm or worse. It's not even the victim that need be shot. If an innocent bystander got hit, 25 more years. In this scenario, the State has to prove the robbery, the gun, that the gun was fired, that the bullet struck someone, and the bullet caused great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or death.

Hypothetically, one could set sentenced to 55 years in prison for armed robbery if the offender shot someone. In comparison, First-Degree Murder carries a prison sentence of 20-60 years. But much like armed robbery, the gun enhancements apply.

As you can see, committing armed robbery with a firearm is no joke. It can be punished harsher than murder.

In the last year, I have handled or am currently handling at least 15 armed robbery cases. All allegedly involving firearms. Sadly, the average age of my client is about 17-18. What baffles me is how silly the crimes are. Only 1 of my cases allegedly involved the robbery of a commercial business where one might expect to get some money. No, most of mine allegedly happen on the street and for things like Air Jordans, iPods, cell phones, and jewelry.

Is a pair of new Air Jordans worth 21 years in prison? This might make you laugh, but in 1 of my cases the victim allegedly told the offender he would have to kill him if he wanted the shoes. This fact pattern was read into the court record yesterday at my client's plea hearing. I couldn't make this stuff up. 

There isn't one material possession I own or could ever own that would be worth my life. And this kid was ready to die over a pair of Nike basketball shoes.

Welcome to my world. Pull up a chair. And have a seat.


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