“Bulging Pocket” Sufficient for Armed Robbery Charge
In Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that even though a man did not brandish a weapon or say he was armed, the man was correctly convicted of armed robbery based on the store clerk’s testimony that he assumed the man was armed because his hands were in his hooded sweatshirt pocket and the pocket bulged forward.
The man entered a Halo Burger in Genesee County where a shift manager and store clerk were working. Minutes later, the man approached the store clerk and demanded all the money that was in the till. The man was wearing a zip-up hooded sweatshirt and his hands were in his pocket, but the man’s pocket bulged forward. The store clerk was not sure whether the man actually had a weapon, but did not take any chances and turned the money over to the man. The store clerk activated the alarm button after the man left.
The man was ultimately pulled over by a police officer, who noted that the driver’s appearance matched the description of the robber and the man had some dollar bills on the front floorboard under the driver’s feet. There was also a blue sweatshirt in the back of the vehicle. Due to identification by the store workers and another gas station owner where the man had stopped, the man in the sweatshirt was identified as the individual who had caused the robbery.
In court, the man argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for an armed robbery charge because there was no evidence that the he possessed a weapon or verbally indicated that he had a weapon. The court found that an old statute that stated a person who possesses a dangerous weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to lead one to reasonably believe and fear that there is a dangerous weapon from which to be charged with armed robbery was irrelevant. Instead, the court focused on whether the man represented was in possession of a dangerous weapon.
In this case, the Michigan legislature’s recent revision of the statute incorporating what was required for an armed robbery proved determinative in the conviction of the man in the sweatshirt. The case does, however, raise an interesting issue. One wonders about more harmless situations where one believes that based on the bulge in one’s sweatshirt or jacket that someone is containing a weapon and whether similar charges would be made.
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