When someone is arrested for a crime, such as robbery, it is up to the prosecution to determine what charges they will face. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the prosecution to overcharge a defendant. Typically, when a defendant is overcharged they will have far more charges than necessary, and of a more serious nature. Prosecutors may have several reasons when they overcharge a defendant; however, it is commonly understood that prosecutors overcharge at least in part out of a hope that the serious nature of the charges will persuade the defendant to consider pleading to a lesser offense. Thus, someone who is charged with an Arizona crime must understand the elements of that crime and the prosecution’s chances of proving it at trial.
Robbery is among the most overcharged offenses in Arizona. An Arizona robbery offense is committed when “in the course of taking any property …, such person threatens or uses force against any person with intent either to coerce surrender of property or to prevent resistance to such person taking or retaining property.” Simply stated, a robbery occurs when someone takes or attempts to take an object by force or threat of force. Another way of looking at a robbery offense is that it is an assault that is committed in the course of a theft. Notably, there is no requirement that the person charged with robbery be successful in their attempt to remove an item from another person.
There are several types of defenses to a robbery charge. In some cases, the eyewitness identification may be suspect and susceptible to attack. For example, often, robberies occur in a split second, and an eyewitness’s mental notes about what the alleged doer looked like may not be accurate. However, police will use the eyewitness’ description to stop anyone that matches that description. Once police stop someone they believe matches the description, there may be an issue with the suggestiveness of the identification. For example, if a witness is asked if a suspect was the person that robbed him, and the person is in handcuffs and surrounded by eight police officers, the witness may be subconsciously cued to believe that the suspect was the person who robbed them.