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New York Penal Code Section 160.15: Robbery in the First Degree

New York Penal Code Section 160.15: Robbery in the First Degree

When a person is charged with robbery in the first degree, he or she isn’t just charged with larceny. There is an added element to the crime. That element is the use of force or the threat of force. That is why New York’s legislature, police departments and prosecutors across the state take robbery in the first degree so seriously.

Robbery in New York is categorized as third, second and first degree robbery. Fist degree robbery is the most serious of the three. New York Penal Code section 160.15 states that a person is guilty of first degree robbery when property is forcibly stolen, “and when, in the course of the commission of the crime or of immediate flight therefrom, he or another participant in the crime” commits one of the four following acts:

  • Causes serious physical injury to an individual who is not a participant in the crime.
  • Is armed with a deadly weapon.
  • Uses or threatens immediate use of a dangerous instrument.
  • Displays what appears to be a firearm that could cause serious physical injury or death.

Deadly Weapon

A deadly weapon is defined in New York Penal Code section 10.00(12). It can be “any loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, dagger, billy, blackjack plastic knuckles or metal knuckles.”

Dangerous Instrument

A dangerous instrument is defined at New York Penal Code section 100.13. They can consist of “any instrument, article or substance including a vehicle as that term is defined in this section, which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.”


In New York, first degree robbery is a class B felony. Probation is not a sentencing alternative for the crime. The mandatory minimum sentence for robbery in the first degree is five years in prison. The maximum is 25 years in prison. If a person is classified as a violent prior offender, the mandatory minimum sentence doubles to a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.


Sections 10.00(12) and 10.00(13) of the New York Penal Code are cited for a specific reason. Maybe a robber did not display any type of a weapon or dangerous instrument. For example, a man in a hoodie walks up to a woman on a street and says “give me your money.” She refuses. Then, the man reaches into the pocket of the hoodie. He has a half pint of vodka in it, and he points the top of the bottle at her from inside of the hoodie pocket. The top of the bottle looks like the barrel of a gun, and the woman reluctantly gives him $8.00. Even if nobody was injured in the theft, the man used the apparent threat of force to steal just $8.00. He can still be charged with robbery in the first degree. That will be a judgment call by the prosecution, but the thief can still be charged with second or third degree robbery.

Whether a person has committed robbery in the first degree or third degree, any robbery in New York carries a prison sentence. Don’t give police a statement or confession of any kind. Both police and prosecutors will only use it against you. Exercise your right to remain silent along with your right to have an attorney present during questioning. Contact our offices right away after being arrested for robbery, and we’ll arrange for a consultation with you. We’re going to listen to you carefully and answer your questions. Then, we will advise you of all of your legal choices.

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