Bonnie and Clyde Style Robberies in Arizona

Robberies need not be as epic as Bonnie and Clyde’s to be some of the most serious crimes under law.When I heard this story on the local news about “Bonnie and Clyde” style robbery suspects being arrested in Arizona, I stopped to reflect upon an image of “Bonnie and Clyde’s” get-away car I had seen several years ago, on display in Nevada.

Bonnie and Clyde, the historical crime duo, were killed in their get-away car which had been riddled with over 100 bullets in 1934. Because of their violent cross country crime spree, they were considered highly dangerous. So authorities decided to capture them dead instead of alive.

As I studied the bullet riddled car, and some shredded and tattered clothing they had been wearing at the time of their death, I felt this overwhelming sense of terror and sadness. It was an eerie. I was saddened by the thought that in some way people looked at the vehicle and other related items as trophies, and as for Bonnie and Clyde themselves, they were remembered as icons.

But why? I suppose it was the “One person’s villain is another person’s hero” syndrome. As I looked around the room, I saw newspaper clipping, stories, and photos framed from 1932 to 1934. They followed events of the cross-country crime spree, and violence. Finally, the last photo I noted was taken immediately following Bonnie and Clyde’s death, taken of them as they lay lifeless by the vehicle. It was difficult to look at.

No, these were no trophies. There were no heroes. These were symbols of tragedy, and consequences of crimes that to this day, have not ceased to exist.

At the same time, I saw a failed criminal justice system…”Wanted dead or alive” is how the posters read. Regardless of how serious or violent the crime they were entitled to a fair trial by jury, under the United States Constitution. Whether they deserved a fair trial or not, was irrelevant.

Robberies need not be as epic or dramatic as those committed by Bonnie and Clyde to be considered some of the most serious crimes under law. Robbery convictions in Arizona and call for the serious penalties with life long penalties. If a gun or deadly weapon is possessed, even if it is not used, it is charged as “Armed Robbery” in violation of A.R.S. 13 § 1904. Armed Robbery is a Class 2 felony, the most severe, just short of Class 1 felonies that are reserved for the most serious of crimes, homicide. Aggravated criminal penalties can result in life in prison.

Robberies were committed at businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, 5 of them in Gilbert, 3 in Mesa and 2 in Chandler. A thirty-year-old male and his twenty-seven year old wife were arrested and accused of working as a team to rob businesses. The husband had lost his job, the unemployment check hadn’t arrived, and they had four minor boys to feed.

In order to commit the robberies, the husband would stand in line like a prospective customer and then, once he reached the front of the line, grab money out of the register. His wife would wait in the van with their four sons.

Under A.R.S. §13-1902, “robbery” is defined as taking property from another’s body or immediate presence and against their will, where the defendant threatens or uses force against them in order to coerce the person to release the property. Robbery is more serious than theft because it involves violence or the threat of violence.
Robbery encompasses crimes involving brief verbal threats, as well as two people ganging up on a victim or using weapons. However, two people ganging up on a victim is the class 3 felony of aggravated robbery. Using a deadly weapon or even a fake gun can lead to an “armed robbery” charge.

Robbery is usually charged as a Class 4 felony and carries a sentence of between 18 months-3 years in Arizona. There may also be mitigating or aggravating circumstances associated with the robberies that can reduce or worsen the sentence.

In this case, there were ten robberies, and even if no deadly weapon was used, the potential penalties are severe. The nature of the man’s threats as he robbed the stores is not clear from the news articles. It is also not clear whether he pretended to have a weapon, which would lead to Class 2 armed robbery charges and likely worsen his sentence.

The man recently pled not guilty to the charges. The choice to plead not guilty may seem surprising. However, offenders have the constitutional and criminal right to plead not guilty no matter how serious the charges are or how strong the evidence is against them.

You should be aware, if you are charged with a crime, that pleading guilty or no contest does not necessarily mean you will necessarily receive a lesser sentence. In fact, if you plead guilty without a criminal defense attorney, you may in effect be waiving your right to retain a criminal defense attorney. You have the right to plead not guilty and to be presumed innocent unless the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is an exacting standard, which is why it behooves anyone who is accused or charged of robbery to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. A good defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor in exchange for you pleading guilty or no contest. Or, if you have a strong defense, you can plead not guilty and your attorney can work to damage the prosecutor’s case and present your side of the story at trial. Contact The Law Office of James Novak at 480-413-1499 for a free consultation, if you face robbery or other serious charges in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert or other surrounding East Valley Cities.

Additional Resources:

Robbery Classification, Arizona Revised Statutes

Arizona Government Benefits

Maricopa Superior Court

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