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How Much Prison Time for Armed Robbery?

Armed robbery is considered a very serious felony offense that typically results in substantial prison time upon conviction. The amount of potential prison time depends on factors like whether a firearm was used, violence or injury occurred, the defendant’s criminal history, and state laws. This article examines armed robbery sentences, penalties, and factors that influence punishment.

What is Armed Robbery?

Armed robbery is defined as stealing money or property from another person through force or threat of violence while in possession of a weapon. The weapon is typically a gun but can also include knives, explosives, clubs, or other dangerous instruments.

Unlike burglary, which involves illegally entering a building to commit theft, armed robbery is theft directly from a person by intimidation or assault. It’s an extremely serious crime that violates victims’ personal security and peace of mind.

Typical Prison Sentences for Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is classified as a felony in all states and typically results in multi-year prison sentences. States have considerable leeway in determining criminal penalties, so statutes and sentencing guidelines vary. However, some generalizations can be made:

  • Simple Armed Robbery – 2 to 20 years in prison. A “basic” armed robbery with a weapon but no additional harm or criminal history often brings 2 to 10 years.
  • Aggravated Armed Robbery – 10+ years up to life in prison. Use of a firearm, injury, kidnapping, prior convictions, large financial loss, or other serious circumstances can result in decades or life.
  • Federal Armed Robbery – 7 years to life. Robberies under federal jurisdiction tend to bring stiff sentences of 7+ years up to life imprisonment under sentencing guidelines.
  • Mandatory Minimums – Some states require minimum prison terms for armed robberies or those involving a firearm. For example, a mandatory minimum could be 10 years if a gun was used.
  • Habitual Offenders – Repeat armed robbers or “career criminals” face severe sentencing enhancements resulting in decades behind bars. Some states have “three strikes” laws requiring life sentences after three serious felonies.

So in summary, small-scale armed robberies often lead to 2 to 10 years in prison while aggravated, injurious, or repeated robberies can easily result in decades to life behind bars. The use of a firearm escalates potential penalties significantly.

Factors That Influence Armed Robbery Sentences

Judges consider many factors surrounding the armed robbery when determining appropriate prison time and penalties. Key factors include:

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Use of a Firearm – Armed robberies involving guns typically receive far longer sentences than those with knives or other weapons. Some states have “mandatory minimum” statutes requiring enhanced prison terms if a firearm was used in the robbery.

Violence or Injury – Armed robberies involving physical harm or injuries to victims are treated as more serious “aggravated” or “armed violent” robberies. Severe beatings or assault warrant among the harshest sentences.

Value of Property Loss – Large financial losses increase prison time, such as armed robberies at banks, jewelry stores, or casinos. These are sometimes charged as first-degree robbery.

Defendant’s Criminal History – Repeat offenders and those with violent criminal histories face sentencing enhancements like “three strikes” laws and habitual offender statutes.

Number of Victims – Armed robberies with multiple victims are viewed as more serious crimes warranting longer sentences. Gang-related mass armed robberies are severely punished.

State Laws – Some states impose harsher sentences for armed robbery than others. Regional attitudes about crime and access to parole can also influence time served.

Victim Impact – If victims suffer severe psychological trauma, judges may impose lengthier prison terms. Victim impact statements can affect sentencing.

Plea Agreements – Defendants accepting responsibility through plea bargains receive somewhat reduced punishments at the prosecutor’s discretion.

Sentencing Guidelines – States and the federal system have structured sentencing guidelines that assign point levels driving sentencing ranges, limiting judicial discretion.

Overall, the particular circumstances surrounding the armed robbery offense are the biggest determinants of potential prison time. Aggravating factors lead to dramatically increased sentences compared to simple armed robberies.

Average Time Served for Armed Robbery

While armed robbery sentences can be lengthy, the average time served in prison is often considerably less than the full sentence handed down. Parole eligibility, good behavior credits, and prison overcrowding result in reduced time behind bars for some offenders. However, those convicted of aggravated armed robbery are more likely to serve longer prison terms.

Some estimates of actual time served for armed robbery:

  • Basic Armed Robbery – 3 to 7 years on average
  • Aggravated Armed Robbery – 15+ years on average
  • Federal Armed Robbery – 12+ years on average

So while a 10-year armed robbery sentence seems short, the reality is the average defendant convicted of armed robbery serves between 3 and 15 years behind bars. Parole boards are cautious about releasing violent offenders early. Those who hurt victims or used guns serve toward the higher end.

Federal Armed Robbery Laws and Sentences

The federal criminal code includes statutes covering armed robbery, which are prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys in federal courts. Federal jurisdiction applies to armed robberies:

  • Of federally insured banks or credit unions
  • Occurring in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico
  • On Native American reservations
  • Of postal carriers delivering mail
  • Affecting interstate commerce or trade

Prosecuting armed robbery in federal court typically results in strict sentencing under Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Key statutes and penalties include:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2113 – Bank Robbery – Up to 20 years, or 25 years if a gun is used, plus sentencing enhancements for injury, kidnapping etc. Concurrent sentences for multiple counts.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2118 – Robberies Involving Controlled Substances – Up to 20 years, escalating to life imprisonment for large quantities involving organized crime.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2114 – Mail, Money, and Other Property of the United States – Up to 25 years for postal robberies or if a dangerous weapon was used.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1951 – Interference with Commerce by Threats or Violence – Up to 20 years if armed robbery affected interstate business, trade, or commerce.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) – Firearm Enhancement – Mandatory minimum 5-30 additional years if a gun was used in a federal robbery. This must run consecutively with the underlying sentence.
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In the federal system, a “basic” armed robbery often brings 7-12 years, while aggravated cases with injuries or firearms can easily net 20+ year sentences. Stacked charges and enhancements add decades for serious robberies. Parole was abolished in the federal system in 1987.

Armed Robbery Sentences by State

Penalties for armed robbery vary widely across different states, as do factors like sentence enhancements for firearm use or repeat offenders. Below are some examples of armed robbery statutory sentencing ranges:


  • Basic Armed Robbery – 3 to 9 years
  • Injury or High Value Loss – 5 to 20 years
  • Gun Used – Additional 3 to 10 years
  • Prior Serious Felony – Additional 5 years (Three Strikes)


  • Basic Armed Robbery – Up to 15 years
  • Firearm Used – Minimum 10 years
  • Resulting in Serious Injury – Up to Life
  • Habitual Offender – Up to 30 years to Life

New York

  • Basic Armed Robbery – 5 to 25 years
  • Violent Felony Offender – 12 to 25 years
  • Aggravated Armed Robbery – 15 to 25 years
  • Persistent Violent Felony Offender – 25 to Life


  • Basic Armed Robbery – 2 to 20 years
  • Injury or Reckless Shooting – 5 to 99 years
  • Defendant Over 17 – Automatic Transfer to Adult Court


  • Basic Armed Robbery – 7 to 20 years
  • Bank Robbery – Up to 25 years
  • Gun Used – Additional Mandatory Minimum 5-30 years

So state sentencing can vary from around 3 years up to life in prison for the most serious armed robbery offenses involving grave injury, firearms, and career criminals. Many states have passed “truth in sentencing” laws requiring violent offenders to serve the majority of their pronounced sentences.


Armed robbery is considered an extremely severe offense in all jurisdictions, punishable by substantial prison terms. While sentences vary based on state statutes, the use of a gun, injury, and other aggravating factors can increase prison time to decades or life. Even simple armed robberies typically garner 3-7 years behind bars. The average armed robber serves 6-12 years in prison.

However, aggravated cases with violence, large financial losses, and repeat offenders often result in 15+ year sentences. Both state and federal guidelines impose harsh sentences to deter armed robberies and protect public safety.

Most Common Armed Robbery Penalties

  • Simple Armed Robbery – 3 to 10 years
  • Aggravated Armed Robbery – 10+ years to Life
  • Federal Armed Robbery – 7 to 25+ years
  • Mandatory Sentencing Enhancements – 5 to 25 years for firearms
  • Habitual Offenders face potential Life Sentences
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Average Time Served

  • Basic Armed Robbery – 3 to 7 years
  • Aggravated Armed Robbery – 15+ years
  • Federal Armed Robbery – 12+ years

Frequently Asked Questions

How much prison time do you get for armed robbery?

For a basic armed robbery conviction with no injuries or criminal record, typical sentences range from 2 to 10 years in state prisons. Aggravating factors can dramatically increase sentences to decades or life in prison. Federal armed robbery often brings 7 to 25+ years.

What is the sentence for armed robbery with a gun?

Using a gun during an armed robbery results in substantially higher prison sentences, with many states imposing mandatory minimum sentences enhancement of 5 to 25 additional years if a firearm was involved.

What if someone gets hurt during an armed robbery?

Injuring or harming someone during an armed robbery elevates the crime to “aggravated armed robbery” with sentences of 10+ years up to life in prison depending on the severity of injuries and state laws. Even threats or perceived likelihood of injury increases penalties.

How much time do you serve for armed robbery?

While sentences vary widely, the average time served for armed robbery is 6-12 years in state prisons. Simple armed robbery brings 3-7 years on average, while aggravated injury cases average 15+ years. Federal sentences tend to be 12+ years on average.

Does armed robbery get life in prison?

While a basic armed robbery does not typically garner a life sentence, aggravated cases involving grave bodily harm, substantial financial losses, or habitual offenders can and sometimes do result in life sentences under various state laws or federal sentencing guidelines.

Can you get probation for armed robbery?

Probation is very rarely given for armed robbery convictions, as it is considered a dangerous and violent felony. Lesser sentences are sometimes offered through plea bargains, especially for young first-time offenders involved in minor armed robberies. But probation alone is an unlikely sentence.

How long do you go to jail for robbing a bank?

Robbing a federally insured bank triggers harsh federal armed robbery penalties of up to 25 years just for the robbery, plus mandatory consecutive sentences of 5 years to life if a firearm is used. Significant enhancements for violence, high losses, and repeat offenders can easily result in 25+ year sentences.

What if you rob someone without a weapon?

Robbery without a weapon is typically classified as simple “robbery” rather than “armed robbery.” But it is still a serious felony. Potential sentences are lower without a weapon, but still substantial ranging from probation up to 15 years depending on circumstances.

Can you plead insanity for armed robbery?

It is very rare for defendants charged with armed robbery to successfully plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The mental defect required is extremely high. More often mental health or addiction issues may slightly mitigate sentencing but do not usually preclude substantial punishment.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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