The People’s Lawyer

Does a stun gun count as a deadly weapon in a robbery case?

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Stun guns, also known as tasers, are marketed as non-lethal weapons that allow owners to disable their would-be assailants. They deliver a controlled electrical current to the target’s body, causing involuntary muscle contractions. But while stun guns might be associated with self-defense and law enforcement, that hasn’t stopped some from using the weapon to commit offenses such as armed robbery.

Because stun guns are supposedly “non-lethal,” would a person charged with armed robbery while using one face lesser penalties than one who used a gun or knife?

Robbery using a stun gun is a crime of the second degree

According to West Virginia law, a person who commits or tries to commit robbery by using any means to temporarily disable the victim, such as the use of a stun gun, is guilty of robbery in the second degree. A conviction for this offense leads to confinement in a correctional facility for at least five years, up to a maximum of 18 years.

This offense carries “lighter” penalties compared to those for robbery in the first degree. The criminal charge is for robbery offenses using the threat of deadly force, such as pointing a gun or by physical violence (i.e., striking, beating, strangulation, etc.). A conviction for robbery in the first degree carries a state correctional imprisonment sentence of at least ten years, with no maximum limit.

Lethal stun gun use can lead to greater penalties

However, stun guns can be deadly under certain circumstances. Experts have warned that the “non-lethal” weapon can be life-threatening to those with pre-existing heart conditions or who are taking drugs that affect their cardiovascular system.

West Virginia has provisions for lethal use of stun guns in a robbery. If a person committing or trying to commit robbery puts in jeopardy the life of another by using an electronic shock device, they’ll be guilty of a felony. A conviction for this offense leads to confinement in a penitentiary for at least ten years but not more than 25 years.

So, while using a stun gun in a robbery carries a lighter sentence than a robbery involving a gun or knife, a robbery where a stun gun causes a life-threatening injury or death will lead to much more severe punishment. It would be helpful for those facing robbery charges to work with a legal professional to understand where their case stands.