Florida Court Rules Firing a Gun is not an Essential Element of Armed Robbery

While a criminal defendant can be convicted of multiple crimes arising out of a single criminal act in some cases, the law provides protection from multiple convictions where the crimes have the same essential elements. For example, a defendant cannot be convicted of felony murder absent evidence of an act that could have caused death and is not an essential element of the underlying felony.

A Florida appellate court recently stated that an attempted felony murder charge was not precluded by an attempted armed robbery charge, because firing a gun is not an essential element of armed robbery. If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with armed robbery or felony murder, it is important to retain a proficient St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who will fight diligently on your behalf in the hopes of preserving your rights.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crimes

Allegedly, the victim was negotiating with a woman regarding the purchase of a couch she found on a website for people reselling property. The victim advised the woman that she and her daughter would come by to pick up the couch. When the victim and her daughter arrived at the woman’s apartment, they were robbed by two men, one of whom was the defendant. The defendant put a gun against the victim’s head and pulled the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned and did not fire. The defendant attempted to fire the gun a second time but was unsuccessful, after which the men fled.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, and attempted felony murder. He was convicted of all charges. He then appealed, arguing that his felony murder conviction was improper because no intentional act separated the robbery from the attempted felony murder.

Essential Elements of Robbery and Attempted Murder

Under Florida law, attempted felony murder necessitates an act that could have caused death and is not an essential element of the underlying felony. On appeal, the defendant argued that the act of putting a gun to the victim’s head and pulling the trigger was an essential element of the robbery, and therefore, his attempted felony murder conviction could not stand. The court rejected this argument, stating that even if the defendant had not pulled the trigger, he was guilty of robbery.

Specifically, the court explained no shooting or attempted shooting is necessary to convict a defendant of robbery. Rather, to convict a defendant of robbery, the State must only show that the defendant committed a taking through force or violence that places the victim in fear. Therefore, the court found that the defendant’s attempt to shoot the victim was not an essential element of attempted robbery, and affirmed his attempted felony murder conviction.

Meet with a Knowledgeable St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with robbery, felony murder, or another violent crime, you should meet with a knowledgeable St. Petersburg defense attorney regarding your case and your potential defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney experienced in defending individuals accused of committing violent crimes and he will vigorously defend you in each step of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Murder Defendant in Florida Appeals Conviction, November 18, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog