Your Guide to Robbery Charges by Robbery Lawyers in Calgary
Table of Contents
- What is Robbery?
- Investigation of Robbery Charges in Calgary
- Bail Process and Conditions for Robbery Charges in Calgary
- Penalties for Robbery Charges in Calgary
- Defending Robbery Charges in Calgary
- What Next?
What is Robbery?
Robbery is a serious property offence that involves theft or an attempt of theft, coupled with violence or the threat of violence. It is the additional element of violence that separates this offence from that of theft.
According to statistics, robbery cases are on the rise in Calgary, increasing by more than 30% in the past five years.
Section 343 of the Criminal Code of Canada states the offence of robbery as follows:
Robberies, and the penalties assigned to them, range in severity. Common robbery scenarios include those that occur in banks and convenience stores. Home invasion robberies, conversely, are less common but taken the most seriously.
Any violence or threat of violence combined with stealing or an intent to steal constitutes robbery. For example, aggressive panhandling can constitute a robbery, if a threat of violence is employed.
Because robbery is a property crime involving violence or threats of violence, it has two “lesser-included offences,” assault and theft. A good defence lawyer is aware of these underlying offences and will use them when negotiating with the Crown or crafting an effective legal defence.
Investigation of Robbery Charges in Calgary
An investigation of an allegation of robbery in Calgary is typically initiated by a complaint from an alleged victim of the robbery, or a witness to the robbery. A witness may be someone who observed the robbery take place, even if they are not the victim (for example, a customer at a bank during a bank robbery). The police will attend the scene and request a written statement from the alleged victim and any other witnesses, then they will launch an investigation.
A robbery investigation may occur quickly – in a matter of hours or days – or it could take a number of weeks. If you become a person of interest in the investigation, police may contact you to ask that you attend the police detachment to discuss the investigation. If this occurs, it is important that you contact a lawyer before speaking to police.
After the police have gathered their evidence and have reasonable grounds to believe that you are the perpetrator of the alleged robbery, they will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest. Police may then decide to charge you immediately, or they may transport you to the Police District Office for further questioning and processing, before deciding whether or not to lay charges. You will likely be given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer before you are questioned, and you should exercise your right to do so. It is beneficial to obtain legal advice before the questioning.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Robbery Charges in Calgary
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for robbery charges in Calgary?
If you have been charged with robbery, you will be held for a formal bail hearing.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be transferred from the district office to the Spyhill Services Centre. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Centre. Although for many years the Centre was located downtown Calgary, it is now situated in the deep North West of Calgary, which makes getting home after being released far more difficult for many people. The exact address of the Centre is as follows:
Spyhill Services Centre
12500 85th Street, N.W.
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, if that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:
- Call in to the Spyhill Services Centre in Calgary and speak to you.
- Contact the Prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the Court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
If you are released, you may face tight restrictions on your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also to ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit).
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the Judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the Prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review, which is conducted at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
Where can I pay for bail for robbery charges in Calgary?
If you or a loved one is charged with robbery in Calgary and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The cash deposit can be paid at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Alberta. If you live in Edmonton, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Calgary.
Bail hearing offices in Calgary are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The contact details of the bail hearing office at the Calgary Courts Centre are as follows:
Calgary Courts Centre
601 5th Street SW
You can also make a bail payment at the Calgary Remand Centre prior to 8:30 pm. The contact details for the Calgary Remand Centre are as follows:
Calgary Remand Centre
12200 85 Street NW
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for robbery charges in Calgary?
Release on bail for robbery charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life. This could include conditions to refrain from:
- Interacting with any alleged victim,
- Attending the home or place of employment of any alleged victim,
- Attending the location where the robbery took place,
- Breaking any laws,
- Using drugs or alcohol,
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew),
- Travelling to other provinces or countries, and/or
- Possessing weapons or firearms.
The Judge may also impose some additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved,
- Reporting to probation,
- Attending counselling, and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history,
- Your physical and mental condition,
- The nature of the alleged robbery,
- The likelihood that you will flee,
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage,
- Whether you have stable employment,
- Whether you have stable living arrangements, and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Robbery Charges in Calgary
If you are found guilty of robbery, you can expect to face significant penalties. A conviction almost always results in jail time.
The maximum sentence for a conviction for robbery is life imprisonment. In addition, certain types of robberies carry lengthy mandatory minimum penalties:
- If any firearm is used during the robbery: 4 years in jail minimum;
- If a restricted or prohibited firearm is used during the robbery:
- First offence: 5 years in jail minimum,
- Second or subsequent offence: 7 years in jail minimum;
- If the robbery is committed in connection with a criminal organization:
- First offence: 5 years in jail minimum,
- Second or subsequent offence: 7 years in jail minimum.
Robberies are committed in a wide variety of circumstances; therefore, the Canadian courts have developed a range of sentences. For example, if a disguise is used in the commission of the robbery, the Crown typically seeks an additional 1-year sentence beyond the typical sentence range.
The general breakdown of sentence ranges for robbery in Alberta are as follows:
- Street level muggings: Generally, sentences range from 12 to 18 months of jail time.
- Convenience store robberies: The starting point in Alberta is 3 years of jail time, even in cases where the offender has no prior criminal record. This high starting point is to deter people from preying on businesses where employees frequently work alone and without security protection.
- Bank robberies: The starting point for bank robberies in which a note is used to commit the robbery is 4 years of jail time. A common example of a bank robbery by note is passing a handwritten note to the bank teller containing a demand for money with either veiled or explicit threats.
- Home invasion robberies: The starting point in Alberta is 8 years of jail time. While this is a significant sentence, it is important to note that very specific criteria must be met in order for the 8-year starting point to apply.
In addition to the penalties above, a conviction for robbery can have wide-ranging negative consequences on your future:
- Robbery may affect your reputation in your community or with social groups;
- Potential employers may refuse or terminate your employment if their business involves handling money or the use of valuable property;
- Your friends, family and peers may view you as unworthy of their trust;
- You may have civil, immigration, or child custody consequences; and
- You may have difficulties traveling abroad, including to the United States.
With charges as serious as robbery, it is important to have an experienced lawyer with extensive robbery defence knowledge to assist you in reviewing your case.
Even if the evidence is stacked against you, it may be possible to negotiate a resolution to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. We may be able to convince the Crown to let you plead guilty to a lesser offence for a lower sentence, or agree to a set of facts that removes your case from the more serious categories of penalties.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the most serious consequences of a criminal conviction for robbery. To learn more about potential resolutions for robbery offences, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Robbery Charges in Calgary
What are the best defences to robbery charges in Calgary?
Because of the severity of potential penalties for a conviction for robbery, it is important that you take your defence of these charges seriously. In robbery cases, the defences that may be available to you will depend on the facts of your case.
Our starting point is always a careful review of all the police evidence and of your version of events. If you have a defence, we will pursue it to the fullest extent.
In general, the best defences for robbery charges are:
- Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, causing the robbery, or other basic elements of the offence. This could include:
Identity: In some circumstances where the offence was not recorded by surveillance footage, the footage is of poor quality, or the witnesses did not obtain a good description of the perpetrator, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator based on the poor quality of the footage or a generic description by witnesses. In order to effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi to where you were at the time of the offence.
No intent: In order to be convicted for robbery, the Crown must prove that you specifically intended to commit robbery. Intoxication or other factors that impaired your state of mind at the time of the alleged robbery may raise a defence that you did not intend to commit a robbery. However, even if the Court finds that you did not have the requisite intent to commit robbery, it may be possible in some cases for the Court to still find you guilty of one of the “lesser-included offences,” such as assault or theft.
No actus reus: The actus reus of an offence refers to the actions that make up the offence. Robbery requires both an element of violence or threats of violence, and stealing or intent to steal. Additionally, those two elements must be connected. Therefore, if one of those elements is not present, or if there is no nexus between the two, the Crown cannot prove that a robbery took place. For example, if you assault someone to take back property that legally belongs to you, the Crown would be unable to establish the element of stealing or intent to steal. However, even if the Crown cannot establish one of the elements of robbery, the Court may still be able to convict you for one of the “lesser-included offences” of assault or theft, if one of those offences can be established.
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence. For example, a robbery investigation may include searches of a suspect’s person or home. If the police either deliberately or inadvertently violated your Charter rights while conducting their searches, there may be a violation of your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. A successful argument could result in an exclusion of any seized evidence at trial, therefore making it difficult or impossible for the Crown to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is important to remember that while the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.
The availability and strength of any defence depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of potential defences in robbery cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about the defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend robbery charges in Calgary?
If you have been charged with robbery in Calgary, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence (or convincing the Prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against robbery charges in Calgary?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence
Robbery charges are complex, fact-specific, and can have serious consequences on your future.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Robbery Lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.