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Basics of robbery charges in Huntsville & Madison County, Alabama.

Alabama recognizes three degrees of robbery.

The lowest is robbery, third degree. Robbery third occurs if, while committing or attempting to commit theft, a person uses force against the owner of the property or a person uses force against anyone present with the intent to overcome any physical resistance to taking of the property. This crime can also occur if someone threatens the imminent use of force against either the property owner or against another person present to compel the acquiescence to the taking of or escaping with property. Punishment for this crime is from one year and a day to 10 years in prison.

If a person commits a robbery and they are aided by another person and committing the crime, this is robbery, second degree. The punishment for this crime is from 2 to 20 years in prison.

The most serious form of robbery is robbery in the first degree. This crime occurs when a person uses force (or the threat of force) against another person to obtain that person's property. The person committing the robbery is armed with either a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. In the alternative, the crime also occurs if the person committing the robbery causes serious physical injury to someone. The minimum punishment for this crime is 10 years in prison, and the maximum is 99 years or life in prison.

Common questions and answers about robbery charges

Under Alabama law, does it matter if a person was not successful in actually "getting away" with the property?

No. The intent to take property is all that is required. Alabama law does not require the actual taking of property. If someone attempts to commit a robbery, but they're not successful at getting away with the goods, the crime is still robbery and not attempted robbery.

Does the value of the property affect the degree of the robbery?

No. The value of the property is relevant to the crime of robbery. All that's required is an attempt to take property. The degree of robbery is not affected by the value of property stolen. You should be aware that this is not the same as saying that the prosecutor's approach to the case will be unaffected. For example, a million-dollar robbery of a jewelry store could potentially be viewed more seriously by the prosecution of the robbery of a hot dog from a hot dog stand. If both cases were committed the same way, then legally, they would be the same crime. Still, prosecutors will consider the individual facts and circumstances of any case before them, which affects how they choose to proceed.

What if someone commits the crime of shoplifting, but the store gets their property back, and the shoplifter uses force to escape from the store? Is it still robbery?

If the original theft was completed and the shoplifter used force only to flee but not to get away with the property, it would not be a robbery under the law. This question is a bit tricky because if the shoplifter commits theft and then used force to try to get away with that property, the crime could easily be viewed as a robbery since the force was used to escape with the property. If it was all part of a continuous chain of events that were directly precipitated by the theft, and the use of force was done in an attempt to flee with the stolen goods. This would likely be a robbery case.

If a person was drunk or high at the time of the robbery and they didn't know what they were doing, is this a defense?

Suppose an individual was so intoxicated as to be unable to form criminal intent to commit the crime of robbery - this would be a defense. Whether this defense would be successful is another question. It would be up to a jury to determine whether or not they believed that the accused was so intoxicated as to be unable to form the necessary criminal intent.

If I have a right to the property and use force to take it, is it a robbery?

Alabama law specifically disallows the claim of right as a defense to the crime of robbery. You would think this would not be so-it would make sense that you couldn't steal your own property and, since theft is required for robbery, you would think this would be a defense; however, the state of Alabama takes a different view. Alabama wants to protect its citizens from harm and to protect people's property. The reasoning is that the danger to citizens from the use of force or the threat of force is present regardless of the claim of right to the property and Alabama public policy once citizens to assert their property rights through orderly legal processes rather than by using force.