Though theft and property crimes in Massachusetts are more serious than traffic violations and other such crimes, they are usually thought of as second-tier crimes. Typically, when a robbery is carried out, the person will only be charged with a second-degree felony.
It's important for people facing charges to know that weapons can change everything, however, as the level of severity of the crime can go up dramatically when a gun, a knife or some other dangerous weapon is involved.
Typically, the use of a weapon makes a standard robbery into a first-degree felony. Depending on how things play out—if anyone is hurt or killed, for instance—charges could also be leveled for aggravated robbery.
There are two things to note here, the first of which is that attempting to harm or kill someone can upgrade the charges, even if you failed to hurt them at all. The attempt is what matters. Of course, whether they live or not has a big impact on additional charges, but the robbery charges themselves may be altered either way.
The second important thing to remember is that upgraded charges can be used if you simply had a dangerous weapon, even if you didn't use it. Carrying a handgun in your pocket while committing a robbery could set you up for more serious charges, even if you never took the gun out, never fired it and never hurt anyone.
If you are facing charges, you must know exactly how those specific charges were handed down so that you understand what legal defense tactics will be most applicable.
Source: FindLaw, "Robbery Overview," accessed Nov. 20, 2015