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New York Robbery with a Dangerous Instrument

Robbery is one of several theft crimes defined in New York Penal Law. Other types of theft include petit larceny, grand larceny, embezzlement and burglary. The primary element of the crime of robbery that distinguishes it from other theft crimes is that robbery involves the use of force or the threat of violence. Robbery can be accomplished in several different ways. If you use a dangerous instrument to force someone to turn over property to you, then you have committed robbery in the first degree - the most serious type of robbery. Because robbery with a dangerous instrument is so serious, if you are convicted the judge could sentence you to serve up to 25 years in prison. In addition, the judge could order you to pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. On top that you will end up with a criminal record that will cause several aspects of your life to be more challenging. Because of the potential consequences of being convicted of robbery in the first degree, if you have been accused of robbery with a dangerous instrument it is important to immediately contact an experienced New York Robbery with a Dangerous Instrument Lawyer who will understand the best course of action to aggressively defend you against the charges.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have decades of experience representing clients who have been charged with assault and other serious crimes such as domestic violence, grand larceny, and sex crimes. Find out what we can do for you by contacting us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

Robbery with a dangerous instrument

There is no criminal offense in New York Penal Law called robbery with a dangerous instrument. The use of a dangerous instrument in the course of a robbery is one of several aggravating factors that will cause a robbery offense to be robbery in the first degree. Robbery in the first degree is the most serious robbery offense.

A "dangerous instrument" is any instrument, article or substance that can cause death or serious physical injury. N.Y. Pen. Law § 10.00(13). 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. Even if an object is not normally a dangerous instrument, if it is used to hurt someone then the court will deem it to be a dangerous instrument. For example, In People v. Espada, 941 N.Y.S.2d 151 (2012), pliers were used as a dangerous instrument. Defendant Espada was in the process of removing stolen merchandise from a store when employees tried to stop him. In response the defendant, threatened employees with a pair of pliers. While the defendant argued that pliers are not a dangerous instrument, the court disagreed. The defendant made an implicit threat that he would use the sharp pliers on the employees if they tried to stop him from leaving. In another case a bottle was used as a dangerous instrument in the course of a robbery. In People v. Jones, 962 N.Y.S.2d 524 (2013), the defendant hit the victim on the head with a bottle. While the victim was on the ground the defendant stole cash, a cell phone and cigarettes from the victim's pockets.

A more obvious type of dangerous instrument is a knife. In People v. Reckovic , 953 N.Y.S.2d 210 (2012), the defendant threatened to use a knife. The court concluded that the knife qualified as a dangerous instrument because a knife can readily cause death or a serious injury under the circumstances that the defendant used it. Even if you display a knife without having any intention of using it, the court will still deem it to be a dangerous weapon. This was the case in People v. Sharma, 976 N.Y.S.2d 468 (2013). Defendant Dennis Sharma displayed a knife in the course of robbing a store. The defendant argued that he had no intention of using the knife. However, the court concluded that displaying a knife coupled with the circumstances was enough to satisfy the statutory requirement of threatening to use a dangerous instrument.

In another case an imitation pistol was determined to be a dangerous instrument. In People v. Plummer, 944 N.Y.S.2d 134 (2012), during the course of a robbery defendant Mikequann Plummer hit the victim on the back of the head with an imitation pistol. As a result the victim suffered a painful, bloody laceration. In this case the imitation pistol may not have fit the robbery in the first degree definition of a firearm. However, based on how it was used, it did fit the definition of a dangerous instrument.

Consequences of a robbery in the first degree conviction

If you are convicted of robbery in the first degree you will go to prison for at least 5 years. In addition, as part of your sentence the judge may also order you to pay a fine, restitution, and serve a term of post-release supervision.


Because robbery with a dangerous instrument is a class B felony, the maximum prison sentence is generally 25 years. However, the actual length of your prison sentence will largely depend on your prior criminal record. Based on your criminal record, you will be labeled as someone who has no prior convictions, someone who is a non-violent predicate offender, someone who is a violent predicate offender, or someone who is a persistent felony offender.

  • Prior convictions: Prior convictions include felony convictions within the last 10 years.
  • Non-violent predicate: A non-violent felony conviction within the last 10 years.
  • Violent predicate: A violent felony conviction within the last 10 years.
  • Persistent felony offender: At least 2 prior felony convictions.

If you have no prior convictions the judge will still be required to sentence you to at least 5 years in prison because robber 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. If you are a persistent felony offender the minimum sentence you will receive is 20-25 years in prison. In addition, if you are a persistent felony offender, instead of the maximum sentence being 25 years the judge has the authority to sentence you to up to life in prison. N.Y. Pen. Law § 70.08. Other factors that may cause the judge to give you a more severe sentence include the value of the property stolen and the severity of the victim's injuries.

Fines, fees and restitution

In addition to sentencing you to prison, as a part of your sentence the judge may also order you to pay a fine and restitution. The fine would be up to $5,000. Restitution is paid to the victim to cover out-of-pocket expenses that result from the robbery. For example, you may be order to pay for the property damaged or stolen, as well as the victim's medical expenses. Generally, the maximum amount of restitution is $15,000. However, the court may increase the amount to more than $15,000 to cover the amount of the victim's medical expenses. Furthermore, you will also have to pay a fee to the company charged with collecting the restitution from you.

Furthermore, you will be required to pay certain fees including a fee that is called a "mandatory surcharge" of $300 as well as a victim assistance fee of $25. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.35. You may also be required to pay probation or parole supervision fees of $30 per month.

If you do not pay a fine, fee or restitution, you may be charged with a misdemeanors and sent to prison for up to a year, your wages may be garnished or the state of New York may obtain a judgment against you. However, if you cannot pay the judge may adjust the payment terms, lower the amount you must pay, or revoke the part of the sentencing requiring you to pay.

Post-release supervision

If convicted of robbery in the first degree your sentence will also include a term of post-release supervision of up to 5 years. N.Y. Pen. Law § 70.45(e). The purpose of post-release supervision is to ensure that when you are released from prison, you experience a smooth re-integration into the community. Conditions will be placed on you to ensure this smooth re-integration and to help ensure that you do not reoffend:

  • You must not commit a crime
  • You must not hang around others have criminal records
  • You must not go to unlawful or disreputable places
  • You must not possess or use a controlled substance
  • You must submit to drug testing
  • You must attend a drug or alcohol education class
  • You must refrain from consuming alcohol
  • You must consent to warrantless searches
  • You must submit to home visits by your Parole Officer
  • You must regularly report to your Parole Officer
  • You cannot leave the State of New York without permission
  • If you move you must let your Parole Officer know of your new address
  • You must not possess a gun
  • You must stick to a curfew
  • You must have job or attend school

If you fail to follow the rules associated with your post-release supervision, you risk going back to prison.

Long-term consequences

There are several additional long-term consequences to being convicted of robbery in the first degree. You will have a criminal record that will make several aspects of your life more challenging such as getting a job. In addition, you will be barred from working in certain professions such as being a teacher or a lawyer. You will not be able to own a gun, serve in the military, or serve on juries. Some schools may refuse admission. In other cases, while the school may admit you, it may refuse to allow you to live on campus. You will also not be able to receive certain government benefits such as welfare or federally funded housing. You may lose custody of your children. If you are not a U.S. citizen you could be deported.

Request a free consultation with the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are convicted of robbery in the first degree based on using a dangerous instrument you could end up in prison and away from your family and friends for 2 decades. However, based on the facts of your particular case there may be defenses available to you that will result in the charges being reduced or even dropped. 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 armed robbery, robbery with a deadly weapon, and robbery in the first degree as well as other theft crimes such as robbery in the second degree, robbery in the third degree, grand larceny, embezzlement, and burglary. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of robbery in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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