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Robbery, First Degree charges in Huntsville & Madison County, Alabama

A person commits the crime of robbery in the first if, in the course of committing a theft, they either use force against another person with the intent to overcome their physical resistance or physical power of resistance to accomplish the taking or they threaten the immediate use of force against another person to compel acquiescence to take or escaping with the property and, one of two additional conditions are met.

Either:

1. the person who committed the crime is armed with a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument or,


2. the person committing the crime causes serious physical injury during the course of the crime.

For simplicity, I have paraphrased the law but, you can read the actual text of the law here: Section 13A-8-41 - Robbery in the first degree


Alabama law defines "serious physical injury" as p]hysical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

Questions and answers:

Q: Let's suppose Bad Bob commits a robbery, and he shoots the victim, Sally, through the arm and hand with his pistol. He is charged with having committed a robbery under circumstances where he caused serious physical injury during the course of the crime. He has not been charged with committing the crime while armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

At trial, Sally testifies that she was treated and released from the hospital the same day and returned to have bandages removed. She admits she had no further problems, although the bullet in her arm was not removed and the bullet left scars. Sally testifies further that she bled that she felt pain and that she was scared. Sally shows her scars to the jury.

Is Bad Bob guilty of robbery in the first by causing serious physical injury?



A: Under Alabama law, he is not. These facts are based on an actual case that was appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. A person was convicted at trial of robbery first, and they appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which reversed his conviction. According to Alabama's Court of Criminal Appeals, the injuries sustained were not significant enough to constitute "serious physical injuries." The court concluded that these injuries were not within the legal definition of "serious physical injury" under Alabama law. Had the defendant been charged with having committed the crime by using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, he would have been convicted; moreover, he was likely guilty of the lower degree of robbery, robbery in the Third Degree.

***

Q: Terrible Tom takes a tube of toothpaste from Walmart. He runs out of the store without paying while a Walmart loss prevention officer chases him. Ted jumps in his car with a tube of toothpaste. When the loss prevention officer approaches him, Tom takes a gun out from under the seat and points it at the store personnel to avoid capture and getaway. Is Tom guilty of robbery, first?

A: Yes. Robbery includes the use of force (or the threatened use of force) to "get away" with stolen property, and since Terrible Tom did just that, he would be guilty of robbery in the first.

***


Q: Slippery Finger Frank points a gun at Harry and says  "Give up your wallet". Harry complies, but Frank hears a police siren and drops the wallet and runs.

Is Frank guilty of attempted robbery?

A: This is a trick question. The crime of robbery includes an attempt to commit theft as well as an actual theft, so Frank is guilty of robbery, not an attempted robbery.


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