16 Questions About Robbery Charges in SC

by | Nov 7, 2017 | Criminal Defense, DUI |

Robbery is among the most serious crimes in South Carolina.

Armed robbery carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and it carries up to 30 years in prison. No part of the sentence can be suspended and the defendant cannot be given probation…

SC robbery charges can cover a fairly wide variety of situations and can include either armed robbery or strong-armed robbery (also called common-law robbery).

What are the Types of Robbery Charges in SC?

In South Carolina, robbery charges cover most situations where a suspect is accused of taking something from someone by force which could be either armed robbery or strong-armed robbery. There are, however, related offenses that may be more appropriate in certain situations such as purse-snatching or carjacking.

Armed Robbery in SC

A woman walks into a convenience store late one night. She walks through the store and, after seeing that no one else is present except the store clerk, she pulls out a gun, points it at the clerk, and demands all of the money from the cash register.

This would be considered armed robbery because the suspect used a deadly weapon to take the alleged victim’s property.

But, what if the woman does not have a gun but uses her hand in her jacket pocket to make it appear as if she has a gun? This would also be armed robbery – even if the person just pretends to have a deadly weapon, SC law considers it an armed robbery.

Strong-Armed Robbery in SC

Imagine a man is sitting at a table on the outside patio of a restaurant downtown. He is sipping a cup of coffee and checking emails on his computer. A second man casually walks by his table, but, at the last minute, grabs the computer and attempts to run away with it.

The owner of the computer grabs his computer and yells “No!” but then lets go as the second man shoves him away and runs with the computer in hand.

This would be considered strong-armed robbery. Strong-armed robbery, or common-law robbery, is where a person takes property from someone using force or intimidation but does not use a deadly weapon. It carries up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Purse-Snatching and Carjacking

Imagine a woman is walking on the sidewalk downtown. A man runs up behind her, grabs her pocketbook, and, after a brief struggle, runs away with the pocketbook in hand. This could be considered strong-armed robbery, but it could also be charged as “purse-snatching,” which is a separate statutory offense. Purse-snatching is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum potential sentence of only three years…

If a person uses force or intimidation to steal a person’s vehicle, even if the suspect is not armed, they can be charged with the separate criminal offense of “carjacking” which carries more prison time than strong-armed robbery: up to 20 years if no one was seriously injured or up to 30 years if great bodily injury resulted.

Common Questions About Robbery Charges in SC

If you are a victim of a robbery, you should contact the police immediately and report what happened. If you have been accused of a robbery, you should immediately contact a Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer and find out what your options are.

We will try to answer some general questions below, but every case is different and you will need to speak to someone who can answer your questions about your specific situation.

1. Is robbery a felony?

Yes, robbery is a felony whether it’s armed robbery or strong-arm robbery.

2. What does robbery mean?

Robbery involves taking personal property from another person with the use of threats or violence. There are two different types of robbery in South Carolina:

  • Armed robbery is when the suspect has a deadly weapon like a gun, knife or brass knuckles. It is considered armed robbery even if the weapon is not used. It is considered armed robbery even if there is no weapon but the suspect pretended to have a weapon.
  • Strong-arm robbery, also called common law robbery, is when the robber doesn’t have a weapon but uses intimidation or threats of violence while committing the theft.

3. What’s the punishment for a robbery conviction in SC?

Armed Robbery in SC carries a potential sentence of no less than 10 years and up to 30 years. Probation cannot be given for armed robbery.

Strong-armed robbery carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years. It is classified as a non-violent felony and probation can be ordered by the court.

Purse-snatching is a misdemeanor that is punishable by no more than three years.

Carjacking is a felony that can carry up to 20 years is there are no serious injuries or up to 30 years when great bodily injury results.

4. Is robbery a violent crime?

Armed robbery is classified as a violent crime in the state of South Carolina, but strong-arm robbery is not.

The distinction matters, because individuals convicted of violent crimes are ineligible for diversion programs and face harsher sentences than people convicted of nonviolent crimes.

For example, a defendant 24 years old or younger can plead to strong-armed robbery under SC’s Youthful Offender Act (YOA) which would make them eligible for expungement five years after they have completed their sentence if there are no additional convictions during that time.

5. Is robbery a misdemeanor?

No, robbery is always a felony offense in South Carolina.

6. Is robbery a property crime?

Yes, robbery is technically a property crime since it involves taking property from another person.

7. What’s aggravated robbery?

There is no crime of “aggravated robbery” in South Carolina. However, the use of a deadly weapon is an “aggravating factor” that turns what may have otherwise been a strong-arm robbery into an armed robbery.

8. Is robbery a specific intent crime?

Yes, robbery is a specific intent crime. In other words, a person who commits a robbery does so “on purpose” and with the “specific intent” to deprive another person of his or her property.

9. Can robbery charges be dropped?

The solicitor can dismiss any type of charge including robbery charges. They can also reduce a charge or dismiss some charges as part of a plea bargain.

Situations where a prosecutor may dismiss a robbery charge include where there is insufficient evidence for them to obtain a conviction, when the defendant has agreed to plead to other charges in exchange for the dismissal, or when an alleged victim or other witnesses are unavailable for trial.

10. Is robbery a tort?

Depending on the circumstances, any robbery charge could constitute any number of torts. A “tort” is basically an action that someone takes that would make them liable to another party in a civil lawsuit.

Causes of action in civil court that could result from a robbery could include:

  • Theft, or conversion of property.
  • Assault and battery.
  • Infliction of emotional distress.
  • Any other civil cause of action supported by the facts.

In a civil lawsuit, the defendant could be ordered to return any property that was taken or its fair value, to pay any other expenses that the alleged victim incurred as a result of the robbery, and to pay punitive damages.

11. Is robbery a federal crime?

Certain types of robberies are considered federal crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of federal agencies. For example, robberies that occur at the following places are considered federal crimes:

  • Banks.
  • Credit unions.
  • Savings and loan institutions.
  • Cargoes transported across state lines.

12. Are robbery and theft the same thing?

Theft is an element of robbery, but it is not the same thing. Petit larceny, grand larceny, shoplifting, and other crimes cover thefts in different situations, but for a theft to be a robbery it must include the use of force or threatened use of force.

13. Are robbery and burglary the same thing?

Robbery involves taking the personal property of another by force.

Burglary involves entering a person’s home, business, or storage building without consent and with the intent to commit a crime inside. A burglary does not always result in theft, and an armed robbery does not always involve an entry without consent.

If a person breaks into a store at night and robs a worker inside at gunpoint, that person could be charged with both burglary 1st degree and armed robbery.

14. Can robbery be reduced to a misdemeanor?

Robbery charges could be changed to another offense as part of a plea bargain, as long as the prosecutor agrees that it is appropriate and the new offense fits the facts of the case.

Some possibilities include:

  • Purse snatching.
  • Strong-armed robbery which is not a misdemeanor but is a lesser offense.
  • Petit larceny.
  • Shoplifting.

In most cases, however, prosecutors will not be inclined to reduce a robbery charge to a misdemeanor offense unless there are compelling circumstances that would make it appropriate.

15. Can robbery be expunged?

SC robbery charges can be expunged if the case is dismissed or if the defendant is found not guilty at trial. If a person is convicted of armed robbery, there is no possibility of expungement although a pardon may be possible.

A conviction for strong-arm robbery can only be expunged if the defendant pled guilty under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA).

16. What are some defenses to robbery?

Your defenses are going to depend on the facts of your case. Some common defense that are raised in robbery cases include:

  • SODDI (some other dude did it): Sometimes, they get the wrong guy. Wrong place at the wrong time, mis-identification by the victim or witnesses, or possibly a lying jailhouse informant can and does result in wrongful arrests.
  • It didn’t happen: Maybe the alleged victim has mental health issues, an axe to grind, or some other motivation to lie to the police.
  • Ownership: Although there may still be criminal charges that apply such as assault and battery, you cannot steal something that already belongs to you. If someone has property that you own, however, go through the proper channels to get it back and do not take action that can result in your arrest and charges for robbery.
  • Fourth Amendment violations or other constitutional violations: In every criminal case, we look for constitutional violations that could result in the suppression of evidence or statements.

Were You Charged With Robbery in South Carolina?

Do not talk to police, prosecutors, or anyone about what happened until you have consulted with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer who knows how to defend you against robbery charges.

Contact our office to set up a free consultation with one of Coastal Law, LLC’s defense attorneys. Arrange a free consultation now by calling (843) 488-5000 or by filling out our online contact form.

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