An Arizona resident arrested and charged after getting caught with a plastic bag full of $100 bills pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of armed robbery and two counts of bank robbery. In order for there to be a charge of armed robbery, however, a defendant must have used a dangerous weapon to carry out a theft.

Based on the circumstances surrounding the armed robbery charge, the bank robber successfully filed for an appeal. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star, the court of appeals reversed the conviction for armed robbery.

The question of the pocketknife

On appeal, the defendant’s legal team challenged the sufficiency of the evidence that the prosecution presented to convict the man of armed robbery. At question for the appellate judge was a folding pocketknife that the defendant had in his possession during a robbery at the Tempe MidFirst bank.

The defendant never unfolded the knife nor did he threaten to use it while engaged in the act of demanding money from the bank teller. He only pulled the knife out of his pocket so that he could retrieve the plastic bag for the teller to fill with the money he took from the bank.

The appellate court’s reasoning

The appellate court determined that there was no resort to force and no threat associated with the knife placed on the counter. The defendant did not actually “use” a weapon during the robbery. The appeals court judge found that he did not place anyone’s life in jeopardy nor did he display an intent of causing fear. This finding places the armed robbery plea in error. The appeals court reversed the conviction and ordered the Arizona man to be re-sentenced for the two counts of bank robbery only.

Filing an appeal

Anyone convicted of a crime has the right to file an appeal. A conviction may not necessarily mean that a case is over and done with. A sentence may still be overturned or reduced. A review of the arrest circumstances, evidence and trial procedure may demonstrate grounds for an appeal.