Defendant With “Bulging Pockets” Guilty of Armed Robbery
In a new case, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence to convict a Defendant of Armed Robbery, even though he did not actually have a weapon or even claim to have one. If you or someone you know has been charged with the crime of Armed Robbery, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Van Buren County.
Facts of the Case
In People v. Henry, the Defendant was accused of walking into a Halo Burger restaurant and demanding that employees give him all of the money in the till. Although the employee who handed over the money admitted that the Defendant never claimed to have a weapon, she said that she complied with his demand because the pockets of his hoodie were “bulging forward,” his hands were inside them, and she “wasn’t taking any chances.”
At trial, the main point of contention was the language of the Michigan Armed Robbery statute. This statute essentially defined Armed Robbery as being Robbery (i.e. theft through the threat or use of force) where the perpetrator either (1) actually possesses a dangerous weapon, or (2) engages in conduct that would lead that would lead someone to reasonably believe that something that they have is a dangerous weapon, or (3) represents, either orally or otherwise, that they have a dangerous weapon. Based on this definition, the Defendant tried to argue that the statute required that the victim’s belief that the perpetrator had a dangerous weapon must be reasonable. Under this logic, the Defendant could not have been found guilty, because the victim’s belief that he had a weapon was not reasonable.
Changes to Michigan Armed Robbery Law
The Michigan Court of Appeals was not persuaded by this argument. In its opinion, it held that the language of the statute does not require that the victim have a reasonable belief that the perpetrator actually possesses a dangerous weapon in all circumstances. The Court of Appeals noted that in 2004, the Armed Robbery statute was amended in response to a series of cases where the Defendant was acquitted because the victim’s belief that the perpetrator had a dangerous weapon was not reasonable. The amended version of the statute allowed convictions where the perpetrator makes a representation “either orally or otherwise” that he or she has such a weapon.
Turning to the facts of the case, the Court of Appeals noted that while the Defendant’s hands were in his pockets, they were “bulging forward,” and that this conduct led the Halo Burger employees, reasonably or unreasonably, to believe that he might have a weapon. For the Court of Appeals, this meant that the Defendant’s conduct qualified as a representation that he had a dangerous weapon, which fell within the class of non-verbal representations contemplated by the phrase “or otherwise” within the statute.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make a critical difference in prevailing in a criminal trial or in negotiating for a plea deal with the prosecution. If you or someone you know has been charged with Armed Robbery, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Van Buren County at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.