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Robbery Penalties and Sentencing

In a criminal case, juries determine a defendant's guilt or innocence and judges determine sentences for the guilty. When crafting sentences, judges rely on the language of the relevant criminal statute for guidance on the term of the sentence. Judges then look at any aggravating or mitigating factors to determine the exact sentence to hand down.

Criminal statutes will typically include a section that sets a punishment for the crime in question. The punishment described in a criminal statute can take many forms, including a range of years with a minimum and maximum sentence or a list of several distinct options from which judges may select.

California, for example, sets the penalties for second degree robbery at two, three or five years. Judges can select which of those punishments the defendant will receive based on the facts of the case.

New York, on the other hand, establishes a minimum and maximum term of imprisonment and allows judges to select the appropriate penalty from within that range. For second degree robbery, the statutory range consists of a minimum term of one year and a maximum term of 15 years.

Statutes may also establish other forms of punishment, such as fines and restitution.

Judges will look at the facts of a case as well as any aggravating or mitigating factors when deciding on the exact sentence to give to a defendant. In a robbery case, judges will typically factor in the value of the stolen property, the level of violence or intimidation used and the nature of the victim to reach a suitable punishment.

Judges also look at aggravating or mitigating factors when crafting sentences. An aggravating factor increases the severity of the crime, while a mitigating factor reduces it. In jurisdictions where the use of a weapon during a robbery forms a component of punishment instead of creating a separate crime, the presence of a weapon constitutes an aggravating factor that will increase the length of a defendant's sentence. The defendant's criminal record can also act as an aggravating factor.

Mitigating factors for a robbery case can include such things as whether the defendant returned the stolen property or took responsibility for the commission of the crime. The lack of a criminal history can also provide a mitigating factor for the defendant.

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