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Armed Robbery

Defendant With “Bulging Pockets” Guilty of Armed Robbery

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.

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Armed Robbery Charge

“Bulging Pocket” Sufficient for Armed Robbery Charge

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.

If you’re looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com for further information.

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