Review of Federal Bank Robbery Law and Best Defenses
The federal crime of 18 U.S.C. § 2113 bank robbery is generally described as taking by force or intimidation any money or property in custody or control of a bank, credit union, or a savings and loan.
This federal statute also includes robbery of an armored truck, automatic teller machine (ATM), and a night depository.
Further, bank robbery under this law also includes entering, or making an attempt to enter, a financial institution with intent to commit any felony inside, or any type of larceny.
Clearly, most bank robbery prosecutions involve the infamous holding up a bank teller with some type of weapon to obtain money by force.
However, 18 U.S.C. § 2113 is much broader and includes a wide range of unlawful felony behavior where the victim is a bank or other type of financial institution.
For example, the statute has a lesser-included offense of taking money or property from a bank without the use of force or fear.
Although the number of bank robberies in the United States has been falling over the past several years, according to FBI statistics, the crime remains among the most serious of federal offenses.
The penalties for any conviction generally results in at least some prison time and in the most severe instances even the death penalty.
For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing the law below.
Bank Robbery Defined by Statute
According to 18 U.S.C. § 2113, the crime of federal bank robbery is the:
- “taking or attempted taking by force, intimidation, or extortion, of property, money or something of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management or possession of any bank, credit union, or savings and loan association.”
While the statute covers the kind of bank robbery you envision in your head from a movie, when someone walks up to a teller and demands money, for instance, this isn't the only type of situation that is covered by the bank robbery statute.
Especially note that even attempts to commit a bank robbery are included under the statute.
The statute defines a bank as any institution that is a member of the Federal Reserve System or any institution insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
A credit union is any federal credit union or state-chartered credit union insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board. A savings and loan association is insured by the FDIC.
Bank Robbery Is More Than Just a Stick-Up
The federal bank robbery statute also encompasses several different scenarios that could result in a felony conviction, including the robbery of any of the following:
- Automatic teller machine (ATM),
- Night depository,
- Bank messenger,
- Armored truck.
For example, if you threaten someone at gunpoint to withdraw cash from an ATM — even if it's located outside of a bank — and then take that money, that activity would be considered bank robbery under this statute.
Notably, if the person already had the cash withdrawn and there was no forced usage of the ATM, the activity would fall outside the statutory definition of bank robbery. Such a scenario would bring about other charges, however.
The statute also covers knowingly receiving, possessing, concealing, selling, or disposing of anything that has been stolen from a bank, credit union, or savings and loan, even if you didn't commit the actual bank robbery yourself.
Also, even playing a small role in a bank robbery can lead to criminal charges.
“Only” being the getaway driver, for instance, makes someone subject to the same penalties as a bank robber who actually entered the institution and took the money.
Related Federal Statutes
In conjunction with a federal bank robbery charge, an offender could also be faced with several related federal charges that carry additional penalties, including:
- 18 U.S. Code § 371 – conspiracy,
- 18 U.S. Code § 921 - federal larceny,
- 18 U.S. Code § 2315 - receipt of stolen property,
- 18 U.S. Code § 113 - assault with a deadly weapon,
- 18 U.S. Code § 2113(a) – burglary or larceny,
- 18 U.S. Code § 2113(c) – receipt of stolen bank property.
18 U.S.C. § 2113 Penalties
Penalties for bank robbery include jail or prison time and fines and increase with the severity of the crime, especially regarding how much money was stolen.
Specifically, if convicted, you could face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison, plus a fine. If violence is used, the penalties will increase.
If no force was used, the penalties depend on the amount stolen as follows:
- $1000 or less - up to one-year incarceration and a fine,
- More than $1000 - up to 10 years' incarceration and a fine
If another person is assaulted or their life is placed in danger, the potential penalties increase substantially, including up to 25 years in prison and a fine.
If someone was kidnapped, taken hostage, or killed during the commission of the crime or during escape or capture, the possible penalty includes a mandatory minimum ten-year federal prison sentence and could reach life in prison or even the death penalty.
Note that federal mandatory sentencing guidelines govern the punishment for bank robbery convictions.
Bank Robbery Defenses
Being charged with 18 U.S.C. § 2113 bank robbery doesn't mean it's a guaranteed conviction. Several defenses are available, and some of the most common are:
- Mistaken identity,
- Lack of a use of force, violence, intimidation, or deadly weapon,
- Lack of evidence or inadmissible evidence for various reasons, which could include police misconduct,
- The institution involved doesn't fit the statutory definition of a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association,
- Having been forced to commit the robbery by another party through threats or coercion.
In situations where it's not clear that force or intimidation occurred, then we could make an argument you are only guilty of a lesser-included offense.
This could include taking property or money from the bank, but not robbery, which could avoid the most severe punishments.
We might be able to make an argument you were not the person who committed the bank robbery and you are the victim of mistaken identity.
Maybe the actual bank robber was wearing a mask and the prosecutor lacks evidence to prove you were the person who robbed the bank.
Further, if the institution was not a bank or credit union described under under 18 U.S.C. 2113(f)-(h), then you can't be guilty of violating federal law, but clearly could face other charges.
If you are facing federal bank robbery charges, you should know that the potential penalties are incredibly serious.
The sooner you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side, the better the chances for a favorable outcome.
Call Eisner Gorin LLP at (877) 781-1570 to speak about your case, or contact us online.