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NY Penal Law § 160.15: Robbery in the first degree

If you are accused of robbery, you are accused of not just stealing but of using force or the threat of violence to accomplish the theft. Because of the added component of force or violence, law enforcement considers robbery to be a particularly serious crime. While there are three degrees of the crime of robbery, robbery in the first degree is the most serious. According to New York Penal Code § 160.15 you will face this charge if you steal from someone and you are armed with a deadly weapon, use a dangerous instrument, cause the victim or another person to suffer a serious physical injury, or display a gun. New York Penal Code § 10.00(12) defines "a deadly weapon" as any loaded weapon such as a gun, a switchblade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, billy knife, blackjack knife, plastic knuckles, or metal knuckles. New York Penal Code § 10.00(13) defines a "dangerous instrument" is any instrument, article or substance that can cause death or serious physical injury. Whether or not an item is determined to be a dangerous instrument is not necessarily dependent on what the object is, but on how the defendant uses the object.


Logan approached Brenda as she stood outside of an apartment building and demanded that she give him all of her money. When Brenda did not immediately comply, Logan—with his hand in his pocket—said to Brenda, “Give me your money now or I'm going to shoot you.” Brenda saw a bulky object in Logan's pocket that, based upon its shape, she believed to be a pistol. Brenda gave Logan $62 from her wallet. Logan fled the scene. Logan could be prosecuted for robbery in the first degree. Even though he did not display a weapon he led Brenda to believe that he had one in his pocket.

Related Offenses
  1. Burglary in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 140.30
  2. Criminal possession of stolen goods in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 165.54

A possible defense to a robbery in the first degree charge is that you did not display a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. The statute has very specific definitions for deadly weapon and dangerous instrument. If, for example, you threatened the victim with a non-serrated, dull-edged knife or some other relatively innocuous utility knife, then the prosecutor may have a difficult time convincing the court that the weapon was dangerous or deadly. However, if you lead the victim to believe you have a deadly weapon even if you do not, you still could be successfully prosecuted.


Because robbery in the first degree is a class B felony, the maximum prison sentence is generally 25 years. However, the judge will determine your sentence based on factors such as your prior criminal history and aggravating or mitigating aspects of the robbery. If you have no prior convictions the judge will still be required to sentence you to at least 5 years in prison because assault in the first degree is also classified as a violent felony. If you are classified as a non-violent predicate offender the court will be required to sentence you to at least 8 years, while if you are classified as a violent predicate offender, you will be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.

New York Penal Code § 160.15: Robbery in the first degree

A person is guilty of robbery in the first degree when he forcibly steals property and when, in the course of the commission of the crime or of immediate flight therefrom, he or another participant in the crime:

  1. Causes serious physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or
  2. Is armed with a deadly weapon; or
  3. Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or
  4. Displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm; except that in any prosecution under this subdivision, it is an affirmative defense that such pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm was not a loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, could be discharged. Nothing contained in this subdivision shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude a conviction of, robbery in the second degree, robbery in the third degree or any other crime.
Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have been charged with robbery in the first degree you face the possibility of spending years in prison. Because so much is at stake it is important that you immediately seek experienced legal guidance. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors in violation of New York state law and federal law. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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