In Toronto, armed robbery is a serious offence with the potential for a life sentence. With so much on the line, you need a credible defence whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. In this article, Toronto armed robbery lawyer, William Jaksa, outlines some of the most common elements of an armed robbery defence.
When pleading not guilty, a criminal lawyer will look to prove the defendant’s alibi. Being able to prove that the accused was somewhere else at the time of the crime is a powerful defence.
Receipts or bank statements showing debit or credit card usage away from the scene of the crime can help to establish a verifiable timeline for an alibi. Personal accounts of eyewitnesses can add strength to an alibi as well – especially if they can corroborate information for physical proof for the alibi.
An armed robbery defence lawyer will attempt to establish a timeline for the entire day of the supposed offence. This involves security footage, third-party documentation, personal accounts, and more.
For a not guilty plea, criminal lawyers challenge any unreliable identification evidence. The results of line-ups, whether in-person or photos are sometimes unreliable.
Often a witness is uncertain when picking a person from a line-up. Once a choice is made, it is human nature to become more convinced over time that they made the right choice.
A defence lawyer will attempt to demonstrate the unreliability of this sort of identification.
Validity & Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification was a determining factor in over 70% of false convictions. Witnesses’ memories are easily influenced and contaminated.
Lawyers will attempt to disprove the credibility of the witness. As well, they will establish whether best practices for witness identification have been followed, such as blind administration and confidence statements.
Challenging a Lack of Evidence of Armed Robbery Charge
The prosecution needs to prove four elements to convict the defendant of armed robbery charges. The defence counsel will attempt to display a lack of evidence of any or all of these elements:
- That the robbery occurred.
- The robbery occurred in presence of the victim.
- That the robbery occurred through use or threat of violence.
- The robbery occurred while armed with a deadly weapon.
The Robbery Occurred
The first thing the Crown needs to establish is that the robbery actually occurred. If there is insufficient or inadequate evidence to prove there was a robbery or attempted robbery, there are no grounds for conviction.
Next, they must prove the robbery occurred in the presence of the victim. If there’s no proof the victim was present the charges are incorrect. In litigation, a lack of proof of the victim’s presence may result in the charges being reduced to theft or burglary.
Thirdly, the Crown needs sufficient proof that the robbery was committed through the use, or threat, of violence. Armed robbery requires a specific intent to use force or threats of force with a weapon. Threats are difficult to prove, and even the application of force can be difficult to prove later.
The Prosecution may attempt to prove use of force by displaying injuries suffered by the victim. A defence lawyer is likely to seek proof from the medical records. If the victim shows signs of injuries before the supposed date of the robbery they can challenge the evidence. As well, if there is a delay between the robbery and the visit to a doctor or hospital it can place doubt on the cause of the injury.
Finally, there needs to be adequate proof that the robbery occurred while the accused was armed with a deadly weapon. To be classified as a weapon, the item in question must meet one of the three criteria for assault with a weapon:
- The item is designed for use as a weapon (i.e. firearm).
- The item was used as a weapon (i.e. stabbing someone with a pen. The pen counts as a weapon because of how it was used, despite that not being it’s intended design).
- The item is intended to be used as a weapon (i.e. the accused threatens using an item as a weapon, whether designed for use as a weapon or not).
Intoxication, in the right scenario, can serve as an armed robbery defence. For this to apply, the intoxication must have been involuntary. For example, if the accused was slipped drugs unbeknownst to him/her.
The armed robbery defence attorney may attempt to argue that the actions of the defendant were beyond their control as a result of intoxication. If the intoxication was voluntary, this defence does not apply.
The lawyer may attempt to establish that use of drugs or alcohol is out of character for the defendant. Evidence, statements, testimony, or confessions from someone either witnessing or slipping the defendant drugs can help to corroborate this defence.
Armed robbery lawyers employ an entrapment defence when the defendant is forced to commit a crime. This applies when the robbery was committed under duress or as a result of a threat. This defence is common with gang-related activity.
A gang or gang members have sometimes threatened to kill or seriously injure the defendant if they don’t commit or take part in a crime. Instruction to commit a crime for a criminal activity is eligible for life imprisonment.
If there is reasonable evidence that the armed robbery was committed as a result of entrapment, the charges may be acquitted.
Hire A Toronto Armed Robbery Lawyer
If you or a loved one are facing armed robbery charges in Toronto, you need an experienced criminal lawyer. William Jaksa has over 10 years of experience defending criminal charges in Toronto, successfully challenging evidence such as video surveillance, fingerprint and DNA evidence.
Get the defence you deserve. Contact us today for question or consultation.