The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals released an opinion this month in a case where a man entered a convenience store brandishing a rifle. When the man looked around, however, he noticed that there wasn’t anyone in the store. The store clerk was in the back office watching the man on the security camera. When the clerk saw the man enter the store, he locked the office and called 911. Unable to open the cash register, the “robber” stole the clerk’s wallet and some money that was behind the counter. The “robber” never saw anyone inside the store. Then he left.
The man was later charged with and convicted of Aggravated Robbery under Texas Penal Code Section 29.02, which provides in relevant part:
a person commits [robbery] if, in the course committing theft…and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or harm.
Appellant argued that “because there was no evidence of interaction between him and [the victim], the evidence was legally insufficient to support a robbery conviction, and the conviction should be reformed to that of theft. Accordingly, the CCA was faced with a question of first impression in Texas:
Does the Offense of Aggravated Robbery Require Interaction Between the Accused and the Purported Victim?
Appellant contested that he could not intentionally or knowingly place a person in fear, if that person was unknown to him. A unanimous CCA disagreed, explaining that
‘knowingly’ does not refer to the defendant’s knowledge of the actual results of his actions, but knowledge of what results his actions are reasonably certain to cause. Using this definition, robbery-by-placing-in-fear does not require that a defendant know that he actually places someone in fear, or know whom he actually places in fear. Rather, it requires that the defendant is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to place someone in fear, and that someone is actually placed in fear.
In this case, because Appellant brandished the rifle in the convenience store, the CCA held that his culpable mental state was not negated by the fact that the victim did not happen to be in his presence. In sum, the CCA answered the question presented in the negative.
The offense of Aggravated Robbery does NOT require interaction between the accused and the purported victim.
Read the full CCA opinion in Howard v. State.