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What is robbery in the State of Iowa?

by David A Cmelik Law PLC

First degree robbery requires that the defendant have the purpose of inflicting or attempting to inflict serious injury, or he or she must be armed with a dangerous weapon. First degree robbery is a class “B” felony punishable by at least 17.5 years and at most 25 years in prison. Second degree robbery is robbery that isn’t first degree robbery which means, in a nutshell, any robbery where there is no purpose to inflict nor an attempt to inflict a serious injury nor a dangerous weapon. However, note that a second degree robbery includes the intent to commit a theft coupled with an assault, a threat of a forcible felony, or a threat with the purpose of placing another in fear of a serious injury. Second degree robbery is a Class “C” felony that is punishable by at least 7 years in prison and at most 10 years. ​Note: in May 2017, third degree robbery was added to the classification of robbery. It is an aggravated misdemeanor and the Supreme Court's interpretation is explained in greater detail here. To understand the distinction, consider the following. I once tried a robbery case that began as a first degree robbery but the prosecutor amended the charge after a consensus among law enforcement and a defense expert that a seized airsoft pistol—at least in that case—was not a dangerous weapon. A dangerous weapon is “any device or instrument designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury when used in its designed manner is capable of inflicting death.” Juries in Iowa may also conclude “any sort of instrument or device” is a dangerous weapon if it is “actually used in such a way as to indicate the user intended to inflict death or serious injury, and when so used is capable of inflicting death.” Iowa Model Jury Instruction 200.2 (“dangerous weapon”). 
I say “at least in that case” an airsoft pistol was not a dangerous weapon because that may not always be true. The law, and the fact finder, will dictate what a dangerous weapon is in any given case. Since robbery summons the phrase “serious injury,” it’s important to understand that, as well. The Iowa model criminal jury instructions tell us that serious injuries include “disabling mental illness” or a “condition which cripples, incapacitates, weakens, or destroys a person’s normal mental function.” It is also any bodily injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or which causes a serious permanent disfigurement or extended loss or impairment.” Children are particularly scrutinized by the law—a serious injury on a child is defined as any injury to a child that requires surgery to repair or requires general anesthesia. Skull fractures, rib fractures, and, generally, broken long bones in children all qualify.  Iowa Model Jury Instruction 200.22. Someone charged with any kind of robbery in the State of Iowa should immediately consult with an attorney. A blog is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.