Federal Bank Robbery
American folklore surrounds famous bank robbers, such as Butch Cassidy, John Barrow, and John Dillinger. Stories describing their flare and efforts to outwit federal law enforcement officials are legendary.
Robbing a bank is a federal offense. The federal law banning bank robbery is found under 18 USC 2113. Specifically, this law bans taking, or attempting take, by force or threat, anything under the “care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank , credit union, or any savings and loan association.”
Simply put, the fact that bank property is the object of the taking serves as the basis for federal prosecution. If a robbery involves other types of private property, such as money from a convenience store, the crime would be most likely handled in a state court as opposed to a federal district court.
Federal Bank Robbery Offenses
A prosecution theory of the use of force, violence, or intimidation is authorized under 18 USC 2113(a). This offense carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
It is also illegal to enter or attempt to enter a bank “with intent to commit…any felony.” This is a burglary theory of prosecution and is also defined under 2113(a). It also carries up to 20 years.
Under 2213(b) it is a felony to steal more than $1,000 from inside a bank. A violation of this provision carries a sentence up to 10 years.
Under 2113(c) it is illegal to receive or possess or even conceal, sell, or get rid of, anything stolen from a bank or S&L or credit union. If it was part of a robbery, the sentence is the same as under 2113(a). If it is simply stolen money then it is the same as under 2113(b).
Under 2113 (d) anyone who commits a robbery or a theft in a bank and either assaults (causes an injury) or puts someone’s life in jeopardy using a deadly weapon would be subject to possible sentence of up to 25 years.
Under 2113(e) anyone who commits a robbery or theft and, either while committing the offense or when trying to get away with the offense, kills or kidnaps a person would be subject to a minimum sentence of 10 years and, if someone dies, could be punished with life imprisonment or death.
Most, but not all, federal offenses are listed under Title 18 of the United States Code. This title, for most offenses, serves as a sort of federal penal code. Title 18 lists offenses related to RICO, bankruptcy fraud, wire and mail fraud, securities fraud, firearms offenses, money laundering, bank robbery, Hobbs Act (extortion and bribery) violations, and a host of others. Some other crimes related to patent infringement and customs violations (Title 19), tax evasion (Title 26), securities exchange offenses (Title 15), and narcotics (Title 21), are dealt with under other sections.
Federal Bank Robbery Investigations
It is also important to recognize that federal law enforcement agencies enjoy a substantial advantage in resources, such as technology and manpower. It is not uncommon for FBI agents to quickly make the scene of a bank robbery, shut down the bank, interview all employees and customers on the spot, and quickly analyze phone data. Further, banks themselves typically use techniques and technology to quickly identify perpetrators. Camera systems and various currency manipulations help track currency and compile suspect data.
Federal Bank Robbery Defense Considerations
Defense attorneys who represent bank robbery suspects need to quickly gain access to case discovery, review video surveillance, thoroughly examine witness statements, and talk to bank personnel to learn how the bank works and establish whether any mistakes or misunderstandings occurred during the investigation. They also need to speak with clients and other witnesses extensively. Further, following up on any important alibi information could be critical.
It is also necessary that attorneys understand a client’s objectives and objectively evaluate whether pursuing a cooperative posture, only with the client’s consent, might make sense.
Federal Bank Robbery Sentencing Considerations
For bank robberies under 2113(a), the base offense level begins at 20. Enhancements exist if a firearm is used, injury occurred, if the loss exceeds $20,000, or a kidnapping is involved. Firearms and injury enhancements can add 11 levels. Financial loss can add up to 6 levels and kidnapping could add 4 levels. The applicable guideline for these cases, provided they don’t result in a death, is found under Section 2B3.1.
For bank burglaries under 2113(a), the applicable guideline is found under Section 2B1.1. This is the section for most financial crimes in the federal system. It is primarily driven by the amount of intended or actual loss and the number of victims. Other significant factors include the level of substantial financial harm involved as well as the level of sophistication of the crime.
Stealing bank property under 2113(b) and receiving or concealing stolen bank property under 2113(c) is also addressed under 2B1.1.
Bank robberies involving serious harm or use of a deadly weapon are addressed under 2B3.1. From a sentencing standpoint, these cases are nearly indistinguishable from robberies under 2113(a). The same standards under the guidelines apply as described above addressing section 2B3.1.
For bank robberies where death results under 2113(e), the beginning offense level is 43. This means that life imprisonment is the guideline recommendation to the judge. The applicable guideline in this section is 2A1.1.
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