Police are investigating an incident where a man allegedly robbed a store in Philadelphia while with his hand in his pocket to mimic a gun. In most states, the incident would raise the question of whether this amounted to an armed robbery or not. In Pennsylvania, though, it does not matter: All robberies – armed or otherwise – are prosecuted under the same statute.
Hand in Pocket to Mimic Gun, Man Robs Store
The alleged robbery happened overnight on Monday, March 11, 2019, at the 7-Eleven store on Cottman Avenue in Philadelphia.
According to news reports of the incident, a man entered the store and asked for an E-cigarette. When the store attendant returned to the counter with the device, the man had put his hand in his pocket to mimic a gun. He then told the clerk to empty the register.
Approximately $250 was taken during the heist.
Most States Make Distinction Between Robbery and Armed Robbery
Most states in the U.S. have decided that committing a robbery while armed is a more egregious offense than taking property without the threat or use of a weapon, and have created different statutes for each offense.
In New Jersey, for example, there are separate provisions for robbery and armed robbery in the statute N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. Simple robberies are second-degree crimes that carry five to 10 years in jail and up to $150,000 in fines. Robberies committed by an actor “armed with, or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon,” on the other hand, are first degree crimes that carry up to $200,000 in fines and between 10 and 20 years in jail.
Pennsylvania: One Statute Fits All
In Pennsylvania, there is only one statute for all robbery prosecutions – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701. Like most statutes that prohibit robbery, Pennsylvania's describes the offense as theft, plus an element of force or threatened force. Therefore, robbery can be committed in Pennsylvania when a theft involves any of the following:
- The infliction of a serious bodily injury,
- Intentionally putting someone in fear of an immediate and serious bodily injury, including via threat, as was the case in this particular robbery,
- Threatening to commit, or actually committing, any felony in the first or second degree,
- The use of force, however minimal, to take property off the person of someone else, or
- Taking property from a bank by demanding an employee hand over the money
Of course, without separate offenses for robbery and armed robbery, completely different offenses can be punished with the same penalties. Both brandishing a gun and actually using it during a robbery can both lead to first-degree felony charges that come with 10 to 20 years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Works in Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who can provide effective legal defense for those accused of robbery in or near the city. Call his law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online if you are facing criminal charges today.