Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson
County, the Hon. George Oros, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE UNDERWOOD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendant, Ricky Skelton, was found guilty of armed robbery following a jury trial in the circuit court of Williamson County and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. A divided appellate court reversed, and the cause was remanded to the circuit court with directions to enter a judgment of guilty of robbery and impose an appropriate sentence. (79 Ill. App.3d 569.) That court found that the toy gun used by the defendant was not a dangerous weapon required for conviction under our armed robbery statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a)). We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 73 Ill.2d R. 315.
The robbery of which defendant was convicted occurred around 6:30 p.m. on August 10, 1978, at the Value Store west of Marion. A plastic toy revolver was taken from defendant's waistband when he was found lying on the ground some 300 yards from the store shortly after the robbery. This revolver was introduced into evidence and is before us. Except for the cylinder, it is constructed entirely of hard plastic. The cylinder is a thin, tinny metal. The entire gun is only about 4 1/2 inches in length, and it is quite light in weight. It is similar in appearance to a small-caliber revolver and might well be mistaken for the authentic gun which the witnesses apparently believed it to be. The sole issue before us is whether this toy gun is the "dangerous weapon" required under the statute to support a conviction for armed robbery. That issue is not one upon which any unanimity of opinion exists.
At common law there was no distinction between simple robbery and a robbery accomplished by use of some weapon. Legislative action generally has made the latter the more serious crime, and our criminal laws provide for a greater penalty when a dangerous weapon is used:
(a) A person commits robbery when he takes property from the person or presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force.
Robbery is a Class 2 felony."
"Sec. 18-2. Armed robbery
(a) A person commits armed robbery when he or she violates Section 18-1 while he or she carries on or about his or her person, or is otherwise armed with a dangerous weapon.
Armed robbery is a Class X felony." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, pars. 18-1, 18-2.)
(Under our statutory scheme, a Class X felony is subject to substantially more severe penalties.) Effective February 1, 1978, and applicable to this case, the General Assembly had amended the definition of armed ...