One Unbroken Chain of Events: The Doctrine of Continuous Transaction in State v. Jackson

Robbery is larceny from the person by violence or intimidation.  The exact relationship between the taking and the violence is vexing.  There is authority for the proposition that the use of force must be such as to induce the victim to part with the property.  State v. Richardson, 308 N.C. 470, 476, 302 S.E.2d 799, 803 (1983).  A recent opinion of the Court of Appeals reminds us, however, that the violence need not coincide with the taking when there is a continuous transaction.  See State v. Jackson, No. COA23-636, 2024 WL 1172327 (N.C. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 2024).  In such cases, the evidence may support a conviction for robbery, even if the victim is incapacitated, unconscious, or dead.  This post explores the doctrine of continuous transaction.

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Robbery and the Claim of Right Defense

James gives his friend Angela some money to purchase drugs. Angela doesn’t get the drugs and doesn’t return the money. James then comes to Angela’s house to confront her and get his money back, barging into the house and threatening her with a gun. James ultimately leaves without any money but is soon charged with attempted armed robbery. He testifies at trial that he had no intent to commit robbery; he was simply trying to get his property back. Angela admits on the stand that she had the money and never returned it or bought the drugs. James moves to dismiss, arguing that the State’s evidence is insufficient to establish any felonious intent—because he had a legitimate claim to the property, he couldn’t have committed robbery.

In ruling on the motion to dismiss, the court should:

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Cast your vote, and read on for the answer.

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Convictions for Attempted Armed Robbery Based on Evidence of the Completed Crime

In North Carolina, the general rule is that “an attempt to commit a . . . felony is punishable under the next lower classification as the offense which the offender attempted to commit.” G.S. 14-2.5. However, the armed robbery statute, G.S. 14-87, makes it a class D felony to “take[] or attempt[] to take” property from another while in possession of a dangerous weapon. The specific terms of the statute therefore create an exception to the general rule, and render attempted armed robbery the same offense class as the completed crime. The fact that attempted armed robbery is specifically set out in the armed robbery statute and is the same offense class as armed robbery has created considerable doctrinal trouble. In the past month, the General Assembly has tried to fix the problems and the state supreme court has weighed in on an analogous issue.

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Is It Armed Robbery if a Defendant Has a Gun but Doesn’t Expressly Menace the Victim?

Last week, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina decided State v. Wright, a case that answers an interesting question: Does a defendant commit armed robbery when he takes a victim’s property after displaying a gun, even if he doesn’t point the gun at the victim or expressly threaten to shoot the victim — and even if the victim denies having being scared?

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Armed Robbery by an Unarmed Defendant

The court of appeals recently held that a defendant who was initially unarmed, then stole a weapon from a victim, was properly convicted of armed robbery because the defendant was armed with the weapon that he stole. Sound circular? Read on. First off, the recent case is State v. McMillan. In brief, the evidence suggested … Read more

Armed Robbery and Representations about Weapons

Twice each year, the School of Government welcomes newly-appointed magistrates for two weeks of training. Part of the curriculum involves learning the elements of common crimes. When I teach the elements of armed robbery, an exchange like this always ensues: Me: Imagine that a bad guy comes into a convenience store and tells the clerk … Read more