Bank Robbery Law and Legal Resources

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What is Bank Robbery?

Bank robbery occurs when a perpetrator enters an occupied bank, credit union or savings and loan association; subjects those inside to force, violence, or fear from a threat of force while taking or attempting to take anything of value from the bank or from anyone inside.

Bank robbery, a felony, has three methods: unarmed, armed, and by inference such as receiving, possessing, concealing, storing, selling, disposing or bartering of recently stolen money from a bank.

Elements of Bank Robbery

In prosecuting a bank robbery defendant, the government must prove each of the following points beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant took money or other valuables that were in the care, custody or possession of the bank, a bank employee or customer;
  • The defendant used force, violence, or intimidation;
  • The defendant intentionally used a dangerous weapon or device (not applicable for unarmed or in possession);
  • The deposits of the bank are insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration Board

Bank Robbery Punishments

Punishment for bank robbery varies depending upon the value of money and property taken. If the amount taken is more than $100 the penalty is a fine and a maximum sentence is 10 years. If the amount is less than $100 the penalty is a fine and incarceration up to one year.

Enhancements can add additional punishments. Imprisonment for a maximum of 25 years and a fine is imposed if:

  • A dangerous or weapon or device is involved
  • Anyone other than the perpetrator is assaulted
  • Anyone’s life, other than the perpetrator’s, was in jeopardy
  • Anyone other than the perpetrator is killed

In the event of a victim’s death, the punishment is life in prison or death.

Federal Bank Robbery

To give the government jurisdiction to prosecute a bank robbery case, a federal connection with the various banking organizations must exist.

Under federal law, the term “bank” is defined as any bank that is a member of the Federal Reserve System as well as trust companies, savings banks operating under federal laws, U.S. branches of foreign banks, and any institution with deposits that are insured by the FDIC.

Many credit unions fall under federal bank robbery law. These are federal credit unions and any state-chartered credit union that has accounts insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board.

Federal savings and loan associations and state associations with accounts insured by the FDIC are also covered by federal bank robbery statutes.

Defenses to Bank Robbery

Defenses include misidentification of the bank robber and if the perpetrator was under duress to participate in the crime. For example, duress may occur if someone participates in a crime because the life of a spouse is threatened.

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