Individuals who choose to rob businesses may think federal charges could be avoided if they use a toy gun during the robbery instead of an actual firearm. A woman from St. Louis discovered, however, that courts rarely differentiate between a real firearm and a realistic replica, even though a toy water gun obviously cannot kill its victims. The woman, who had reportedly used the toy gun to rob a local White Castle, was sentenced to 15 years of prison time in connection with the August 2011 felony robbery.

Authorities report that the 34-year-old suspect had jumped off the roof of her apartment complex as officers attempted an arrest. She suffered broken bones and other injuries. The woman's injuries led to infections that required a temporary release from custody for treatment, but she has now returned to serve her sentence.

The woman had pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery charges in November, according to media reports.

During the holdup, the woman reportedly passed a note to a drive-through cashier, saying she would shoot her unless she gave her money from the registers. Two female workers ran into an office to hide while the manager alerted officers. The woman then crawled through the restaurant window and stole more than $600 from the till, according to reports. She hid the money in her home, but her husband turned it over to police when they arrived at the apartment.

The woman had previous convictions for manslaughter, possession of drug paraphernalia and stealing, according to media reports.

In this case, the woman may have received a reduced sentence because she chose to plead guilty; still, she will spend significant time in jail because of her previous convictions. The judge in the case labeled the woman as a persistent prior offender, which may have led to the 15-year term. First-degree robbery is a felony crime, for which the woman will spend time in federal prison.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Woman sent to prison for robbing St. Louis White Castle with toy gun," Kim Bell, Jan. 8, 2013.