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First-Degree Robbery Conviction Does Not Require Presence Of A Weapon

First-Degree Robbery Conviction Does Not Require Presence Of A Weapon

When a would-be bank robber claims to have a weapon and creates a reasonable fear that he does have such weapon, he is subject to charges of first-degree robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(b)). When Christopher Dekowski entered Commerce Bank in Roselle acting suspiciously, including feigning the locking of the banks doors, carrying a briefcase and dressed in a manner differing from the seasonal norm he quickly drew the bank manager’s attention. Dekowski approached a teller, at which time the manager intervened and saw a note indicating that the teller was to place all of the money in a bag and implying that Dekowski had a bomb which he would use if the teller failed to comply. Dekowski was given $500 and apprehended. In the Superior Court, Law Division, Union County, the defendant was convicted, in State v. Dekowski, of first-degree robbery and sentenced to a 13-year prison term with an eighty-five percent parole disqualifier under the No Early Release Act (N.E.R.A.) (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2). The NJ Appellate Division reversed the conviction, finding insufficient evidence with regard to possession of a weapon, as required for a conviction of first-degree robbery, and determining second-degree robbery to be established remanded for resentencing accordingly. In State v. Williams, ___ N.J. ____, ____ (2014) the NJ Supreme Court held that a conviction for first-degree robbery does not require a weapon but only the victim’s “actual and reasonable belief that a weapon exists and the defendant’s threatened immediate use of such weapon.” In Williams, the court relied on State v. Hutson, 107 N.J. 222, 227-228 (1987), holding that the belief in the presence of a weapon need be reasonable under the specific circumstances. The court considered the Dekowski’s threat that he had a bomb in concert with the public knowledge and general fear of bombs in contemporary society in determining the reasonableness of the bank manager’s belief in the presence of a weapon in making its determination that the defendant’s conviction for first-degree robbery would be reinstated. First-degree robbery is a very serious charges that carries substantial penalties including up to 20 years in prison. If you have been charged with robbery it is critical you obtain experienced criminal defense counsel to defend you and protect your rights. For more information regarding robbery, theft, weapons, distribution and other serious crimes in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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