Georgia Laws on Robbery and Armed Robbery

A person convicted of robbery or armed robbery faces felony penalties with lengthy prison sentences.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 12, 2023

Robbery and armed robbery are both felony offenses in Georgia. A robbery involves taking property directly from, or in the immediate presence of, an individual—whether by force, threat, intimidation, or sudden snatching. A person convicted of robbery in Georgia faces anywhere from one year to life in prison. The harshest penalties apply in cases of armed robbery.

Robbery and Armed Robbery Crimes in Georgia

Georgia law defines robbery as taking property directly from another person or in their immediate presence by:

  • use of force
  • use of intimidation, threat, or coercion
  • placing the person in fear of serious bodily injury to him or herself or another, or
  • sudden snatching.

An armed robbery adds the element of using or appearing to use an offensive weapon in the commission of a crime.

What Is an Offensive Weapon Under Georgia Law?

The Georgia Code doesn't define what constitutes an offensive weapon, but courts have held that offensive weapons include items designed to be weapons (like guns) but also anything that can produce death or great bodily harm in the way it's used (like an electric cord).

Georgia courts have found the following to be offensive weapons: any loaded or unloaded firearm (including pellet guns, starter pistols, and toy pistols), nun chucks, vice grips, an electric cord, a screwdriver, a lit cigarette and gasoline, a rock, a pillow case, a skillet, and a large tree limb. Courts have rejected hands and feet as weapons.

What Does It Mean to Take From Someone's "Immediate Presence"?

The phrase "immediate presence" doesn't necessarily mean that the robbery must occur right in front of the person. The immediate presence requirement is met if the defendant takes property from an area that would be under the victim's control if the victim wasn't prevented by fear or force. For instance, the court upheld an armed robbery conviction when the defendant took jewelry, cash, and a camera from the victim's home after she'd been forcibly locked in the bathroom.

(O.C.G.A. §§ 16-8-40, 16-8-41 (2022); Avila v. State, 744 S.E.2d 405 (Ga. App. 2013).)

What Are the Penalties for Robbery and Armed Robbery in Georgia?

A person who commits robbery faces stiff felony penalties. The possible prison sentence increases as the threat of harm increases.

Penalties for Robbery Offenses

A person convicted of robbery faces one to 20 years in prison. If the robbery victim is 65 or older, the crime carries a minimum prison sentence of five years.

Although they all carry the same penalties, sometimes charges or a conviction will refer to robbery by force, robbery by intimidation, robbery by threats, or robbery by sudden snatching. (These are the elements listed above.)

Penalties for Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is punishable by a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and up to life imprisonment. A conviction for armed robbery is considered a "serious violent felony" for sentencing enhancement purposes.

Penalties for Armed Robbery of a Pharmacy

Georgia imposes specific penalties on defendants who take a controlled substance from a pharmacy or other drug dispensary by armed robbery. If the defendant intentionally injures anyone during the commission of the crime, the minimum punishment is 15 years.

Penalties for Hijacking a Vehicle

Stealing a vehicle from or in the presence of a person is considered motor vehicle hijacking (sometimes called carjacking). This crime falls under a separate section of Georgia law but contains similar elements. Hijacking a vehicle carries a felony sentence of one to 10 years' incarceration. If the person possesses a firearm or weapon and obtains or attempts to obtain the vehicle by force, violence, or intimidation, the person faces 10 to 20 years in prison. A second offense results in life imprisonment.

(O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-44.1, 16-8-40, 16-8-41 (2022).)

Sentencing of Robbery and Armed Robbery Convictions in Georgia

Georgia's laws impose harsh sentencing provisions on defendants convicted of robbery and armed robbery. In particular, Georgia classifies armed robbery as a "serious violent felony," and this classification carries serious ramifications.

Armed Robbery Sentencing, Probation, and Parole

Defendants convicted of armed robbery face several harsh sentencing provisions under Georgia law. For starters, defendants convicted of serious violent felonies, such as armed robbery, are not eligible for first-offender probation and sentencing. Armed robbery also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years without the benefit of probation or parole. A person convicted of armed robbery who has a prior conviction for a serious violent felony faces life without parole.

Possession of Machine Gun, Silencer, or Sawed-Off Gun During Robbery or Armed Robbery

If the defendant possessed a machine gun, sawed-off rifle or shotgun, or a firearm equipped with a silencer while committing or attempting to commit robbery or armed robbery, this constitutes a separate felony. This felony carries a 10-year sentence that must run consecutively (one after another) to the robbery or armed robbery sentence. A second conviction means a life sentence.

Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders

In the case of robbery or hijacking, a judge must impose the maximum sentence available for any defendant who has a prior felony conviction and served time in prison for that offense.

(O.C.G.A §§ 16-5-44.1, 16-8-40, 16-8-41, 16-11-160, 17-10-6.1, 17-10-7, 42-8-60 (2022).)

Possible Defenses to Robbery and Armed Robbery Charges in Georgia

A person facing charges of robbery or armed robbery may be able to raise the following defenses or defense strategies.

Wrong person. A defendant may claim not to be the robber—that police got the wrong person. In this instance, a defendant might present an alibi defense or challenge the victim or a witness's memory of the event.

No theft. Robbery involves a theft—that is, taking property from someone. If no theft or attempted theft occurred, the crime isn't robbery. However, it could be assault, harassment, terroristic threats, or another crime.

Didn't use a weapon. Armed robbery charges require that a defendant commit the crime by "use of an offensive weapon." If the defendant pretended to have a weapon but didn't (such as by placing their hand in a pocket to mimic a gun), the charges might be reduced to robbery by intimidation. Having a toy gun or unloaded weapon, however, does not reduce the charges.

Not an offensive weapon. Another possible argument is that the object used in the offense was not an "offensive weapon." For instance, a defendant might argue that a vase or lamp is not a weapon.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face criminal charges for robbery or armed robbery, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. A lawyer can help explain the criminal process and penalties you might face, protect your constitutional rights, and defend your case.

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