What if you were taken to jail and charged with armed robbery for being at your girlfriend’s house?
There is bad news this week for Spartan fans. High school senior Donovan Winter, son of former NFL defensive player, Blaise Winter, did not sign a letter of intent with Michigan State on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
As bad as the news is for Michigan State fans, it’s a rough start to life for this 6’4″ 235 lb. defensive end. He’s being held in a Seminole County Florida jail according to the USA Today on a $2,000 bond awaiting a GPS tracker before release.
Not a lot is known about the story except what is public record: Rebecca Thurmond, the mother of Winter’s girlfriend, had originally called the police to report a trespassing violation. When police arrived, Winter was gone.
The daughter informed police that Winter had told her he’d stolen her father’s gun. When Kenneth Thurmond, the father, took police to where the gun was kept they discovered it was gone and that a box of ammunition was also gone. Winter was subsequently arrested without incident and found in possession of the gun.
Regardless of what transpired, it is without a doubt that Winter took a gun belonging to someone else. This is what’s known as a categorical felony.
Not all theft is seen the same in the eyes of the law. Stealing something that belongs to another person is the broad definition of theft, but mitigating factors determine whether any given theft will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. It also depends on state laws.
Many states define a felony based on the value of the property stolen or other factors involved. If it’s a matter of property value, typically the property value making it a felony is between $500 and $1000. As a result, anything stolen valued below that would be a misdemeanor. Anything above that value level is a felony and then is classified by degree based on the value – the higher the value the more serious the felony.
The problem for Winter is that stealing a gun is a categorical felony. This means that it’s a felony to steal a gun no matter what price it is. The same thing applies to a few other kinds of things as well: cars, motorboats, etc.
Winter may be looking at penalties ranging from prison time, fines, restitution and/or probation. Usually, if it is a first-time offense, defendants who are convicted of a felony of low severity do not face long prison sentences. When a defendant has been previously convicted the charges and sentencing tend to become more severe.
Are you surprised Winter could be charged with armed robbery in a situation like this? Here’s what the prosecution would have to prove to make that charge stick:
- That robbery occurred.
Robbery is defined as depriving a possession from someone’s person – rather than larceny which is just taking something that doesn’t belong to you. In this case, it could be argued that robbery occurred. The person does not have to be present in order to have had the possession taken from his person. Kenneth Thurman was in possession of the gun. It was known to be his. This is what’s known as taking it from his “presence” even though it was not directly stolen from his hands
- That the property was taken away.
In this case, that’s clear. Winter took the gun away from the Thurman property.
- That the defendant was intending to permanently deprive the person of the possession.
We can’t know the details from what was released, but this intent also seems clear
- That the possession was taken by violence or intimidation.
It doesn’t have to be severe – a slight shove or the breaking of a purse strap will make the charge.
- That the defendant was using a deadly weapon.
A firearm does count as a deadly weapon, but it remains to be seen whether prosecution can prove that Winter used the firearm in his threat to steal the gun or for some other reason. The weapon in question does not actually have to be used to hurt someone to make this charge stick. If it is brandished or used in a threat of violence, that is enough.
Hopefully for Donovan Winter, his attorney will do his best to prove Winter’s intent was to steal the gun and get his armed robbery charges dismissed if he truly is not guilty of armed robbery.
Robbery is classed as a felony regardless of the value of what is stolen (because of its involvement with the other person). In addition, armed – or aggravated – robbery is punished quite harshly in most states.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with armed robbery and you do not feel that your situation lines up with the definition of armed robbery, you will need an experienced attorney by your side. Please give us a call at the David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC today.
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