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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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New York Penal Code Section 160 15 Robbery First Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 09:35 am

New York Penal Code Section 160.15 Robbery First Degree

Robbery first degree is the most serious robbery charge in New York. It involves forcibly stealing property and either causing serious injury, being armed with a deadly weapon, threatening to use a dangerous instrument, or displaying what appears to be a firearm during the robbery or while fleeing.

What Makes Robbery First Degree?

There are a few things that make a robbery charge first degree instead of second or third degree in New York:

  • Causing serious physical injury to someone who isn’t involved in the robbery
  • Being armed with a deadly weapon during the robbery or while running away
  • Threatening to immediately use a dangerous instrument
  • Showing what looks like a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm

Serious Physical Injury

If the robber hurts someone really bad who isn’t part of the robbery, that makes it first degree. Serious physical injury means an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, causes serious disfigurement, or causes loss of use or impairment of a body organ, member, function or system[1].

Some examples would be:

  • Stabbing or shooting someone
  • Hitting someone in the head with a bat or other weapon
  • Beating someone so badly that they have broken bones, damaged organs, or can’t walk

Just a black eye or bloody nose doesn’t count as serious physical injury. But if the victim has a concussion, fractured skull, or internal bleeding, that could be enough to make it first degree robbery.

Armed With Deadly Weapon

Being armed with a deadly weapon during the robbery or while running away also makes it first degree. Deadly weapons include things like[2]:

  • Guns
  • Switchblade or gravity knives
  • Daggers
  • Metal knuckles
  • Billy clubs

So if the robber uses a gun or knife to threaten the victim, that’s first degree robbery. Even just having the weapon hidden on them is enough, they don’t have to actively use it.

Threatening Dangerous Instrument

Threatening to use a dangerous instrument right away also qualifies as first degree robbery. Dangerous instruments are things that can easily cause serious injury or death in the way they’re being used[3].

Examples include:

  • Threatening someone with a baseball bat or golf club
  • Holding a piece of broken glass to someone’s neck
  • Pouring gasoline around a store while demanding money

Pretty much anything used in a way that could seriously hurt or kill someone counts as a dangerous instrument. The robber doesn’t actually have to injure the victim, just threatening to use the dangerous object is enough.

Displaying Firearm

Finally, showing what appears to be a firearm during the robbery or while running away makes it first degree. It doesn’t matter if the gun is real or not. As long as the victim reasonably believes it’s a real gun, that’s enough[4].

Some examples would be:

  • Pulling out a real pistol or rifle
  • Keeping one hand in a pocket pointed like a gun
  • Showing something that looks like the barrel of a shotgun under clothes

Even using a fake gun or just pretending to have one qualifies as first degree robbery. The main thing is making the victim think there’s a real gun involved.

Penalties for First Degree Robbery

First degree robbery is a class B felony in New York[5]. This means:

  • Jail time between 5-25 years
  • Fines up to $5,000 or double the amount stolen, whichever is greater
  • Probation is not an option

With no criminal record, the minimum sentence is 5 years in prison. The maximum is 25 years.

If the robber is classified as a violent predicate offender with a prior violent felony, the minimum jail time doubles to 10 years[6].

Defenses Against First Degree Robbery Charges

There are a few main ways to defend against first degree robbery charges:

  • No serious injury – If the victim’s injuries don’t meet the legal definition of serious physical injury, the charge may get reduced to a lesser degree.
  • No weapon displayed – If there’s no evidence the robber displayed a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, the first degree charge can potentially get dismissed.
  • Fake weapon – It may be possible to argue the alleged firearm or weapon was just a toy or replica. This can defeat the weapons element.
  • Misidentification – Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. An experienced lawyer may be able to challenge a shaky ID of the suspect.
  • False accusations – There are cases where the alleged victim makes up or exaggerates the robbery. A lack of evidence backing up their claims can expose false allegations.

Being charged with first degree robbery is extremely serious. The potential prison time and fines are substantial. Never try to talk to police or prosecutors without an attorney present. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

The best thing to do is exercise your right to remain silent. Then hire a knowledgeable New York robbery defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can carefully examine the evidence and build the strongest defense to get charges reduced or dismissed.

With so much on the line, don’t leave the outcome to chance. Get dedicated legal help fighting your first degree robbery charges. The sooner you act, the better.


[1] https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/penal-law/pen-sect-10-00.html [2] https://criminaldefense.1800nynylaw.com/new-york-penal-code-160-15-robbery-in-the-first-degree.html [3] https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PEN/160.15 [4] https://www.nycourts.gov/judges/cji/2-PenalLaw/160/160-15%284%29.pdf [5] https://www.findlaw.com/state/new-york-law/new-york-robbery-laws.html [6] https://www.tsiglerlaw.com/new-york-penal-code-section-160-15-robbery-first-degree/

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