Criminal Law - Federal

Federal Bank Robbery

Key Takeaways:

  • Bank robbery is taking from a bank by force and is a federal crime.
  • Robbing a federal bank could lead to life in jail or even the death penalty if someone loses their life as a result of the crime.
  • You need a good lawyer if you’re charged with bank robbery to fight for you.

Committing armed bank robbery today, especially where someone is killed or injured, could lead to serious penalties including life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

If you find yourself facing a federal bank robbery charge, seek out a federal criminal defense attorney who understands robbery cases and can help you understand your rights.

What Are the Elements of Federal Bank Robbery?

According to federal law, bank robbery means using force or intimidation to take any property, money, or item of value from a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association.

You can even face bank robbery charges if you enter or attempt to enter any building used as a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association with the intent to commit any felony with the intent to steal.

If you take money or something of value from the bank but don’t use a deadly weapon or threat of force, you can face a lesser included offense.

You can also face federal bank robbery charges if you use force or a deadly weapon to steal money from an ATM machine, such as holding someone at gunpoint and forcing them to take out money.

As long as the money stolen was in the care of a federally insured financial institution, even attempting to break into a night depository, armored truck service, or bank messenger can also be a type of bank robbery.

Are All Bank Robberies Federal Crimes?

Most federal bank robberies are investigated by the FBI. The federal offense will generally be prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office of the area where the robbery occurred.

However, not all robberies of state banks are considered federal crimes. Bank robbery is generally considered a federal crime if the bank, credit union, or savings and loan association:

  • Is a member of the Federal Reserve System
  • Has the deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Some state banks decide not to be members of the Federal Reserve System because they want to avoid being subject to more strict federal regulations. A non-member bank can operate similarly to one that is part of the federal banking system but isn’t regulated by the Federal Reserve Board. Robbery from a state bank could be prosecuted under state bank robbery laws.

Other federal crimes related to bank robbery can include, kidnapping, assault, murder, possession of a dangerous weapon, and larceny. If you enter a bank and take a hostage or take a person’s life in the process of a bank robbery, you can face harsher penalties.

Under federal law, you can also face bank robbery charges if you possessed, stored, sold, or disposed of money you know was stolen from a bank.

You can also be charged with conspiracy to commit federal bank robbery if you made an agreement with two or more people to commit the crime. If you knew of the crime and helped someone carry it out, you can be charged with aiding and abetting the crime.

What Are the Penalties for Federal Bank Robbery?

Bank robbery statutes provide for severe punishments. You can even face the death penalty or a life prison sentence. Bank robbery by intimidation, force, or violence can carry a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. If you assault a person or use a dangerous weapon and put someone’s life at risk, you can face harsher penalties, including up to 25 years in federal prison.

The harshest penalties faced for bank robbery occur if you abduct someone during the crime or kill someone in the process. You can face a mandatory minimum of not less than 10 years in federal prison, and if someone is killed, you could face the death penalty or life in federal prison.

What Are the Defenses to Bank Robbery Charges?

If you are facing the possibility of federal prison, you should discuss your case with an attorney who is experienced in representing bank robbery defendants. Your criminal defense lawyer can defend you by showing there was no force, dangerous weapon, or intimidation used. Your attorney can also argue for a plea offer which comes with less serious penalties.

Your criminal defense lawyer may show that the money was not in the control of a member bank of the federal reserve system at the time it was taken, such as if in our scenario you didn’t take the money directly from the ATM, but you allegedly took the money from someone who already took cash out of the ATM.

Some other types of defenses that federal criminal defense attorneys may consider during their case evaluation of your criminal charges are:

  • Mistaken identity (the witness’ description of the suspect does not match your unique characteristics)
  • Duress (you or a loved one were threatened with imminent harm unless you took part in the bank robbery)
  • You did not intend to take the property from the bank

If you are facing bank robbery charges, make sure that you discuss your specific facts with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who understands the crime of bank robbery.

Was this helpful?