Robbery and Aggravated Robbery in Texas

robbery and aggravated robbery in texas

What’s the difference between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery in Texas?

In Texas, robbery and aggravated robbery are two separate offenses carrying different punishments. The difference between facing up to 99 years in prison or as little as two years in prison may come down to whether there was a mere display of a deadly weapon.

Robbery: Texas Penal Code §29.02

Robbery is a second-degree felony that carries an imprisonment sentence of anywhere between two years and twenty years. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.33.

According to the Texas Penal Code, a person commits robbery if, during the course of committing a theft, the person either:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.
    Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 29.02

Aggravated Robbery: Texas Penal Code §29.03

Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony that carries an imprisonment sentence of up to 99 years in prison. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.32. A person commits aggravated robbery if, during the course of committing a robbery as defined above, the person:

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  • Causes serious bodily injury to another;
  • Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon; or
  • Causes bodily injury to another person or threatens or places another person in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, if the other person is either disabled or 65 years old or older.
    Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 29.03 .

Bodily Injury

Bodily injury is “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 1.07(8). Courts broadly construe this definition to include minor physical contact as long as they constitute more than mere offensive touching. Lane v. State, 763 S.W.2d 785, 786 (Tex.Crim.App.1989). For aggravated robbery, the bodily-injury element is satisfied when violence is clearly perpetrated against another for the purpose of overcoming resistance to the theft. Aguilar v. State, 263 S.W.3d 430, 434 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2008, pet. ref’d). In Aguilar v. State, the Court of Appeals stated that juries are free to infer that a victim felt or suffered physical pain even when no direct evidence of physical pain is present.

Deadly Weapon

Under the Texas Penal Code §1.07(a)(17), a deadly weapon is “anything manifestly designed . . . for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury.” Where an object does not qualify as a deadly weapon per se under the statute, the State must prove that the object used in the offense was, in the manner of its use or intended use, capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Jackson v. State, 913 S.W.2d 695, 697 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1995, no pet.).

The following factors may be taken into consideration in determining whether an object is a deadly weapon:

  • Physical proximity between the victim and the object;
  • Threats or words used by the assailant;
  • Size and shape of the weapon;
  • Weapon’s ability to inflict death or serious injury; and
  • Manner in which the assailant used the weapon.
    Nash v. State, 115 S.W.3d 136, 140 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2003, no pet.).

Robbery becomes aggravated robbery when a person uses or exhibits a deadly weapon. It is not necessary that the object be used to inflict wounds, nor does its use need to be accompanied by a threat for the object to be considered a deadly weapon. Therefore, it is possible that mere display of an object can satisfy the deadly weapon requirement. Jackson v. State, 913 S.W.2d 695, 698 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1995, no pet.). It is up to the trier of fact to determine whether all of the essential elements of the crime exist beyond a reasonable doubt.

Further, the victim does not need to be aware of the deadly weapon as long as it was brandished during the course of committing the robbery. Boston v. State, 373 S.W.3d 832, 839 (Tex. App.—Austin 2012), aff’d, 410 S.W.3d 321 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). In Boston v. State, the Texas Court of Appeals stated there was no requirement that the victim’s knowledge of the deadly weapon be the cause of fear of imminent harm. The court also explained that the language of the statute allowed a fact-finder to conclude that an individual could be placed in fear in circumstances where no actual threats are conveyed.

Examples of Deadly Weapons

The following objects were found to be deadly weapons either because they did in fact cause serious bodily injury or because they had the capacity to cause such injury.

  • Ice pick: Nash v. State, 115 S.W.3d 136 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2003, no pet.).
  • Pipe: Bosier v. State, 771 S.W.2d 221, 224 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1989, pet. ref’d).
  • Pellet gun: Corte v. State, 630 S.W.2d 690, 692 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1981, pet. ref’d).

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese