Most of us understand robbery as a more violent form of theft. On top of robbery, there’s the even more serious and violent aggravated robbery. How is a robbery aggravated when it’s already a violent act? There’s actually a simple way to distinguish the two.

Aggravated robbery occurs when a deadly weapon is present during the theft or the victim sustains a serious injury.

Serious injury must occur during, not after a robbery

A Supreme Court of Tennessee ruling in 2017 clarified the law on aggravated robbery in a case in which two people robbed two other people at gunpoint. After the victim complied, the defendants placed one of the victims in the trunk of their vehicle and the victim fought back, leading to the defendant shot them four times.

The defendants appealed the jury’s guilty conviction by arguing that the injury occurred after the robbery, not during. A judge denied the appeal ruling that the robbery was, in fact, incomplete because the defendants demanded the victim’s keys which implied they were eventually going to take the car. Because the car remained present and the victim was injured while fighting for the gun, the robbery was deemed incomplete.

By arguing that the defendants injured the victims after the robbery, the defense hoped to have the charges dropped from especially aggravated robbery to aggravated robbery and assault. Had their appeal succeeded, they would have been guilty of a Class C felony instead of a Class B felony, which would have reduced their punishments.

A key distinction

Especially aggravated robbery and aggravated robbery are two serious charges. Despite having some similarities, the difference is enough to make a significant difference in sentencing. The ultimate key to differentiating the two is presence of a deadly weapon, a serious injury sustained by the victim and when that injury happened.