Imagine you are on a late-night store run with a friend. You have your little brother’s toy gun in your pocket. Outside the store, you see someone who owes you money, and the two of you get into a fight. During the scuffle, the other person feels the gun in your pocket, and it falls to the ground. Once you are given the money you are owed and the police arrive, the other person tells the police you took his money and you have a weapon—and just like that, you are going to jail for armed robbery.

It may sound crazy, but it could happen in South Carolina. Robbery is a common charge both in South Carolina and throughout the United States. However, the term “robbery” carries several different definitions in South Carolina.

In South Carolina, simply taking another’s property is not enough to define an event as a robbery. The main element in the state’s definition of robbery is the use of force.

The Basics

Generally speaking, robbery is defined as “taking by force with the intent of stealing the property of another.”

There are two types of robbery charges in South Carolina:

  1. Strong-arm robbery (a/k/a common law robbery): the taking of property by force.
  2. Armed robbery: taking property by force while carrying—or claiming to carry—a deadly weapon.

The difference between the two charges can be confusing. Below are some frequently asked questions about South Carolina robbery statutes.

15 common questions about robbery

1. Are strong-arm robbery and armed robbery the same thing?

No. These are two separate and distinct crimes. Strong-arm robbery does not involve the use of a deadly weapon, while armed robbery does.

2. What is strong-arm robbery?

In South Carolina, strong-arm robbery and common law robbery are the same thing. The South Carolina criminal code does not specifically define strong-arm robbery, but common law robbery is generally defined as “larceny by force or intimidation.”

3. Is strong-arm robbery a felony?

Yes, strong-arm robbery is a felony.

4. What is the penalty for strong-arm robbery?

Although South Carolina requires a sentence of up to 15 years for strong-arm robbery, sentencing can be quite flexible. In fact, judicial discretion can play a huge part in sentencing.

In other words, a judge can rely on mitigating circumstances and wiggle room within the rule of law to reduce that sentence if he or she so desires. The judge can consider a number of things including the facts of the charge, a prior record (if applicable), and life experience in deciding a sentence.

5. What is armed robbery?

Armed robbery is defined as robbery (or attempted robbery) using a deadly weapon.

A deadly weapon is generally defined as a weapon with the potential to kill; this includes clearly lethal weapons like guns, knives, brass knuckles, and razors, as well as blunt instruments like baseball bats, monkey wrenches, and even automobiles. If it can kill, it could be considered a deadly weapon.

You can also be found guilty of armed robbery if you claim to have a deadly weapon on you – even if you do not.

6. Is armed robbery an indictable offense?

Yes. Armed robbery is a Class A felony punishable by a prison term between 10 and 30 years. Anyone convicted under this statute must serve at least seven years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

7. Is it considered armed robbery with a fake gun?

Yes. If you claim or pretend you have a deadly weapon, and the victim reasonably believes you have one, you can be charged with armed robbery—even if you did not actually have a deadly weapon.

For example, a clearly displayed and clearly fake wooden pistol probably would not be considered a deadly weapon, but the outline of a wooden pistol that looks like a functioning weapon in your jacket pocket probably would get you an armed robbery charge.

8. Is armed robbery a felony?

Yes. Armed robbery is a Class A felony. Attempted armed robbery is a Class C felony.

9. How much time does armed robbery carry?

Both armed robbery and attempted armed robbery carry heavy penalties. Anyone convicted of these felonies under this statute must serve at least seven years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. This sentence cannot be suspended and probation cannot be granted.

Crime Penalty
Armed Robbery 10-30 years in prison minimum
Attempted Armed Robbery Up to 20 years in prison


10. Is armed robbery a federal crime?

Generally speaking, no. However, it is a federal crime to rob banks, credit unions, savings and loan institutions, or other types of financial institutions.

11. Is armed robbery a violent crime?

Yes. Attempted armed robbery and armed robbery are both violent crimes.

12. Can you get armed robbery expunged?

No. As a violent felony, an armed robbery conviction cannot be expunged.

13. Can armed robbery be reduced?

Yes. Your attorney can plea bargain for you with the prosecutor handling your case. Plea bargaining is the process of negotiating a guilty plea.

14. How can I beat armed robbery charges?

There are several ways to beat armed robbery charges. Your attorney can show that you did not actually have a deadly weapon and that the victim could not have reasonably believed that you had one.

Other times the police and prosecutors make mistakes while processing, investigating and handling your case. Sometimes these mistakes are bad enough to warrant the dismissal of the charge.

A judge can and will dismiss evidence based on these mistakes—and if that evidence is vital to your prosecution, the judge may dismiss your entire case.

15. Do I need an attorney to represent me for my robbery charge?

Yes. Any robbery charge in South Carolina can carry heavy penalties. Sentencing guidelines are broad and the judge has a lot of leeway in determining your sentence, which makes your attorney’s arguments to mitigate sentencing crucial.

Do not take chances with your future. You should think about hiring an attorney as soon as possible if you find yourself facing these charges.

Taking the Next Step.

Robbery is a felony that carries serious jail time in South Carolina. An armed robbery charge can carry up to 30 years in prison—even if you do not actually have a deadly weapon on you. If a victim believes you’re carrying a weapon, you could end up in prison for a very, very long time.

However, an experienced attorney can fight for you and protect your rights. Remember that the judge has considerable wiggle room when it comes to sentencing, so your attorney’s advocacy and counsel are crucial.

Do not leave your fate up to chance—hire an attorney today! Call Kulp & Elliott at 843-853-3310 or you can send us an email using our contact us form.

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