Armed robberies typically last a matter of seconds, and the majority end without anyone suffering physical injury. But the psychological stress on victims and other witnesses of this violent crime can have devastating and lasting effects. These effects are well documented, often times resulting in posttraumatic stress disorder, and other life altering ailments for the victims and witnesses. For obvious reasons we never care to dissect the psychological impacts of a robbery on the actual perpetrator. It is simply impossible to for most people to sympathize with someone who has just terrorized the innocent. But a recent incident in Harford County provided some insight on just how stressful it can be on the body to commit this violent crime.
Last week a 52 year-old man collapsed seconds after attempting to rob a grocery store in Edgewood, and was pronounced dead at Upper Chesapeake Hospital that night. At around 9 p.m. the man walked into the store with a firearm and demanded money from the clerk. Immediately thereafter he went into cardiac arrest, and collapsed face down on the floor. Paramedics and the police arrived on scene and as soon as they began efforts to resuscitate the man they found a handgun underneath his body. Regardless, the authorities did all they could to save the perpetrator, including CPR and using an automatic electronic defibrillator. Their efforts proved unsuccessful and the man died hours later. Not long after the incident, police executed a search on the man’s house and found evidence linking him to two other armed robberies, which occurred in Harford County back in November. One of the robberies took place at the same grocery store, and the second happened at a Dollar General. Both these cases were unsolved, but should now be closed by the sheriff’s office.
In almost every state armed robbery is one of the most serious crimes on the books, and Maryland is no different. The actual legal name of the crime is robbery with a deadly weapon, and a guilty defendant faces up to 20 years in prison. Some states have higher maximum penalties, but few have lower. In addition, many states impose minimum mandatory jail sentences on defendants who are convicted of robbery with a firearm. Despite incorporating some of the toughest gun laws in the country Maryland’s five-year minimum mandatory is on the low end of the spectrum. These maximum sentences and minimum mandatories exist despite the fact that physical injury is not an element of armed robbery. Additionally it is irrelevant whether the firearm was loaded at the time of the crime. All the state has to prove is that the firearm was in working and operable order. Antique guns that have not been fired in decades can be classified as a working firearm as long as a ballistics officer can fire it in the lab.
In a way, this recent incident sums up why states put such harsh penalties on armed robbery cases, even if nobody suffers a direct physical injury. This crime creates an incredibly stressful situation for all those involved, and can be horrifying for victims. There have been cases where robbery victims and witnesses have suffered deadly heart attacks, and the defendant has been legally charged with murder. Fortunately this did not happen here, but it was nonetheless a sad and unfortunate situation.
Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland robbery lawyer, who handles cases in all state and federal jurisdiction. Benjamin also handles burglary and drug offense, and is standing by to offer a free consultation at 410-207-2598.