Armed robbery is a type of theft that involves the presence, use, or appearance of a weapon. Generally, this crime requires that the perpetrator uses a weapon or pretends to have a weapon in order to frighten or intimidate a victim into allowing the perpetrator to take and leave with the victim's property. This crime is usually distinct from theft, both by the presence of the weapon and the requirement that the property must be taken directly from the victim.
Most of the time, armed robbery is classified as a felony. This is due to the serious nature of threatening a victim's well-being with a weapon, which is usually enough to raise the profile of the incident to a violent crime, even if no actual violence was perpetrated. The type of weapon used may also influence charging and possible sentencing. In some regions, the use of a gun is considered the most serious form of armed robbery and may result in the strictest sentencing guidelines.
Though use of a firearm may bring the most serious charges, any type of weapon may result in a crime being deemed an armed robbery. Weapons may include manufactured items such as knives, or may include dangerous objects such as rocks, broken bottles, pipes, or chains. Generally, a crime can be charged as armed if the robber intended to make the victim feel threatened by the presence of an object that could be seen as a weapon. According to judicial precedent in some regions, a crime can be charged as armed robbery even if the weapon was not real, as long as the victim believed it was real and it appeared to be real.
In some cases, armed robbery may even be classified as a federal crime. This usually occurs when the target of a robbery is a federal institution, such as a nationally-owned bank. Disrupting interstate commerce can also result in federal felony charges, which are typically far more strict than regional charges. Prison terms for armed robbery may last from a few years to the rest of the robber's life.
Charges and sentencing for armed robbery will usually be increased if the robber harmed the victim in any way or committed other crimes, such as property damage, while committing the crime. The more violations have occurred, the stiffer the sentencing. In some areas, perpetrators may be eligible for the death penalty if they kill a victim during an armed robbery.