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Robbery and Aggravated Robbery: Part 1 – Force or Fear


If you have been charged with Robbery or Aggravated Robbery in Utah, then you should speak with an experienced and determined Utah criminal defense attorney, who frequently represents clients accused of violent crimes.  Having a skilled, focused, and detail-oriented criminal defense attorney on your side can mean the difference between emerging from your criminal legal problems unscathed and going to jail or prison.

Utah Code section 76-6-301(1)(a) defines robbery as the taking of “personal property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear, and with a purpose or intent to deprive the person permanently or temporarily of the personal property.”  Robbery is a second degree felony.

Perhaps the most important element of the robbery is the “‘force’ or ‘fear’” clause.  You may be surprised to learn what the Utah Supreme Court has found constitutes force or fear for the purpose of robbery.

Imagine two teenagers at the mall. One kid takes the other’s sunglasses and cell phone, and won’t return it to him after several requests.  The two kids agree to “slap box” for the items.  One of the kids then clenches his fist, hits the other in the head, and walks off with the other’s personal items.  These were the facts in the case of State in the Interest of D.B., 925 P.2d 178 (Utah Ct. Apps. 1996).  In that case, the Court declined to follow the “transactional approach” and held that the ‘”force or fear” in robbery need not be in the act of taking of the property, but rather in accomplishing the taking of the property either prior to its taking or in its completion.  So D.B. was guilty of robbery even though he didn’t use force in accomplishing the acquisition of the cell phone and sunglasses, he did use force in completion of the taking, and that was sufficient enough to satisfy the fear or force element of the crime of robbery.

Consider another, more recent case of State v. Phillips, 2006 UT App 211.  Defendant Phillips had taken compact discs from a library when a security guard approached him.  Phillips responded “I have a knife” and displayed a knife hidden in his sleeve.  The security guard feared for his life, and the court held that by flashing the knife during his attempted escape, Phillips used the fear of force in the immediate flight after his theft.  Additionally, his crime was enhanced to aggravated robbery, a first degree felony, since Phillips used a dangerous weapon in the course of committing a robbery.

“A person commits aggravated robbery if in the course of committing robbery, he: (a) uses or threatens the use of a dangerous weapon as defined in Section 76-1-601; (b) causes serious bodily injury upon another; or (c) takes or attempts to take an operable motor vehicle.” Utah Code § 76-6-302(1).

If you have been charged with Robbery or Aggravated Robbery in Utah, a trained and experienced criminal defense attorney can mean all the difference. Click here to contact a trained professional in Salt Lake City, Utah to begin protecting your rights today.



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