Las Vegas, will forever be a part of American legend thanks to countless films, books and television shows highlighting the city, especially its criminal element. While movies like Ocean’s Eleven may romanticize the notion of robbery, most of the crimes that plague the streets of Las Vegas are not so glamorous. As with any major city, both violent and property crimes are disproportionately more common in major metropolitan areas than in the surrounding communities, and given the amount of money that flows into and out of Las Vegas it is no surprise that armed robbery has become a common occurrence on the city streets.
While casinos may seem like the most obvious stop for robbers given the amount of money maintained on premises, they are only infrequently targeted due to the heavy security presence, large number of witnesses and copious surveillance. When they are targeted however, many lives are put in danger and casinos lose large sums of money. One heist in 2010 involved a single perpetrator wearing a motorbike helmet. At 3:15 am the suspect pulled a handgun on clients and employees and made off with over $1.5 million in chips. The same suspect is believed to be responsible for a similar heist of $20,000 in chips from the Suncoast casino.
Casinos are not the only targets of armed robberies. Frequently, local businesses such as convenience stores, shopping malls and bars are targeted as well. A recent string of hold ups in bars was committed by an individual wielding a hand gun. The suspect, Dennis Cooper, would enter the bar, order a beer, and once served would draw his weapon and order the bartender to hand over the cash in the register. The suspect made off with over $20,000 dollars in cash from nine bars, one of which was actually hit twice. According to the arrest report, Cooper referred to himself as a “robbery connoisseur.” He could now be faced with upwards of 270 years behind bars for these crimes.
A similar armed robbery occurred in which an assailant entered a Burger King with what witnesses claim was an assault rifle and demanded all the money in the register. The suspect made off with $89 and a cheeseburger. He was apprehended soon after by police.
Banks too find themselves held up at gun point all too frequently in the city. The LVPD recently apprehended a man suspected of committing ten bank robberies in Las Vegas and Henderson. This man, referred to as the Mustache Bandit was caught on surveillance cameras. He had actually been in prison for 10 years not long before for the same crime.
Home invasions have also become an all too common occurrence in Las Vegas and the surrounding communities. In August of 2013 several armed suspects entered a home on the 600 block of Shirehampton Drive in which several shots were fired. Police eventually apprehended the one of the suspects at a nearby convenience store, wounded by gunfire. A burglary like this would be prosecuted as a home invasion armed robbery rather than breaking and entering or larceny since the perpetrators threatened the owner with force.
Armed robbery is the most commonly committed violent crime in Las Vegas. According to one study, Nevada ranks at #20 as far as the number of robberies that have occurred this year. Out of a projected total of 5,772 robberies for the year 2013 in Las Vegas, 64% of those involving a deadly weapon will include a firearm, 14% a knife, and 22.1% some other weapon including but not limited to explosives or improvised bludgeoning weapons.
Current Nevada state law defines robbery as the unlawful theft of property from another individual or entity by force, violence or threat of injury. It is important to note that violence need never actually be committed against the victim, as even a threat of force is sufficient. Even carrying a weapon without ever touching it while committing a theft can make a suspect liable for armed robbery.
Robbery is considered a more serious offense than larceny, which is theft without the use of a threat or force, examples of this would include shoplifting or pocket picking. A suspect convicted of armed robbery in Nevada can be sentenced to between 2 and 15 years in prison, a sentenced which can be as much as doubled at the discretion of the judge when a firearm is involved, a much heftier punishment compared to the 1-10 years for felony larceny.
A high percentage of those accused of armed robbery accept a plea bargain, having charges reduced to larceny, aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon, both of which carry shorter sentences. In cases where a suspect pleads not guilty of charges of armed robbery, their lawyer will generally argue along one three lines of defense:
False Accusation- The attorney will assert that the accused did not commit the crime because there was in fact no crime committed at all, but rather the accuser has fabricated their story out of a desire for revenge, mental illness or simple misunderstanding. This line of defense is generally adopted when the story of witnesses or alleged victims have inconsistencies to be exploited.
Mistaken Identity- The attorney will assert that the witnesses in the case have misidentified the suspect as the perpetrator of the crime. This line of defense is generally used in cases where there is a lack of conclusive physical evidence.
No Force or Coercion- By the definition of robbery in Nevada, if no threat was made to the victim’s well-being, the accused is not guilty of the crime of robbery and the charges must be dropped. This line of defense is only used in cases in which the prosecution has strong evidence of larceny but cannot prove that the victims were threatened.
Anyone accused of armed robbery, whether actually guilty or not, faces a steep penalty and should immediately seek the services of a law firm before speaking to police to ensure that they are well advised and defended adequately.