In Canada, robbery involves the theft or extortion of property using a weapon, violence, or threats of violence. There are several types of robbery crimes and each has its own punishment under the law. It is a very serious offence under the Criminal Code and in the most serious situations, results in life in prison.
Due to the serious nature of these crimes, it is important that individuals charged with any robbery crime contact a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. There are defences available to those who are facing a robbery charge and an experienced lawyer will be able to identify all defence options available to you.
What Is Robbery?
The crime of robbery consists of two distinct parts. The first element requires theft to occur, and the second requires an element of violence or threat of violence. Violence can include the use of a weapon in the course of committing the theft. In order to be convicted of the robbery a Crown prosecutor will have to prove that an accused intended to steal and that they intended to use, or threaten, violence.
Robbery can be found under section 343 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
343. Every one commits robbery who
a) steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;
b) steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;
c) assaults any person with the intent to steal from him; or
d) steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.
What Are the Different Types of Robbery?
Generally, people believe that there are three types of robbery: (1) robbery; (2) armed robbery; and/or (3) aggravated robbery. However, these three categories exist in the United States, not Canada.
In Canada, if you are charged with robbery you will be charged under s. 343 and either subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d). While the wording of the Canadian charge is different than that of the US, section 343 encapsulates robbery, armed robbery, and aggravated robbery.
What Is Armed Robbery?
While “armed robbery” doesn’t exist as its own charge, you’ll sometimes still hear the term used in Canada. Generally, if an individual is charged with “armed robbery” they are charged under s. 343(d) of the Criminal Code, which reads, “everyone commits robbery who…steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof. The term “offensive weapon” is not limited to knives and guns. An offensive weapon includes anything that is used, designed, or intended to be used to:
- Cause death or injury to any person, or
- For the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person.
Ultimately, this means that any item that is used in personal violence can be classified as an offensive weapon if it is used in a way that can injure someone, threaten someone, or intimidate them.
What Are Possible Defences for Armed Robbery Charges?
Each case of robbery will be evaluated on its own facts. This means that the defences that are available in one situation may not be available in another. This is why it is important to speak with a criminal defence lawyer if you have been charged with robbery because they will be able to identify all possible defences available to you. One of the most common ways to defend robbery is to demonstrate that an accused either lacked the criminal intent required for a successful conviction, or that they did actually do the physical act of robbery. Some of the other common defences have been listed and briefly described below.
In some instances, when the accused pleads not guilty to robbery a defence lawyer may try and prove that the accused had an alibi. An alibi can demonstrate that an accused was somewhere else at the time of the robbery. Personal accounts of eyewitnesses can strengthen an alibi, but the best way to prove an alibi is through physical evidence. This can include something like a receipt or video footage. Demonstrating that an accused was somewhere else at the time of the robbery is a powerful defence.
2. Violation of Charter Rights
In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides several protections guaranteed to an individual who has been charged with a crime. A violation of these rights can force the exclusion of evidence or the lessening of charges. In some instances, a Charter violation can result in charges being dropped altogether. A qualified defence lawyer will be able to help in identifying if any violation of an accused’s rights has occurred.
3. Validity & Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
As part of a defence for robbery, a defence lawyer may choose to challenge the accuracy and validity of an eyewitness testimony being relied on by the Crown prosecutor. This includes witnesses who are providing identification evidence (i.e. results of line-ups). According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification was a determining factor in over 70% of false convictions. Witnesses’ memories are easily influenced and unreliable.
What Is the Penalty in Canada if Convicted of Armed Robbery?
There is no singular penalty for a successful conviction of armed robbery but any conviction of robbery will result in a criminal record. If a firearm is restricted, prohibited or tied to a criminal organization, the minimum penalty is:
- For a first offence, a minimum of five years imprisonment;
- For a second offence, a minimum of seven years imprisonment.
In any other situation where a legal firearm is used, the minimum penalty is four years in prison. The maximum penalty for a robbery charge involving any firearm is imprisonment for life.
If in the course of a robbery, the accused has inflicted a serious injury on someone, it is possible that they will be designated a dangerous offender upon conviction. Being labelled as a dangerous offender can result in a longer, or indefinite, term of imprisonment in order to protect the public.
If an individual is facing their second or subsequent conviction for robbery it is possible they will face a longer jail sentence. The Criminal Code lists several crimes that if, prior to a robbery conviction, an individual was found guilty of one of these crimes, they will face a longer jail sentence:
- Using a firearm in the commission of an offence
- Using an imitation firearm in the commission of the offence
- Discharging a firearm with intent
- Recklessly discharging a firearm
Additionally, the Criminal Code provides that if, prior to a robbery conviction, an individual committed any of the following offences with a firearm, they will also be considered subsequent offences, and will lead to a longer prison sentence:
- Causing death by criminal negligence
- Attempted murder
- Sexual assault with a weapon
- Aggravated sexual assault
The penalty received upon a conviction will be impacted by both aggravating factors and mitigating factors that a judge will consider. Aggravating factors will generally make a sentence more serious, and they involve: the degree of violence used, whether a victim was injured, and your previous criminal history. Alternatively, mitigating factors will involve any parts of an individual’s situation that can help reduce the severity of a potential sentence.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Lawyer Today
A conviction of robbery is very serious in Canada and can have detrimental effects. If you have been charged with robbery it is important to speak with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible since the potential penalties are so severe. A lawyer who is experienced in defending criminal charges will be able to help identify all defences available to you in order to have your charges reduced or in some cases even dropped.
The team at Pyzer Criminal Lawyers is experienced in defending robbery charges. If you have been charged with robbery and would like a free case evaluation call 416-658-1818 or visit https://www.torontodefencelawyers.com/