Being charged with bank robbery means facing a serious federal crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pours extensive resources into investigating bank robberies, then the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes them to the fullest extent of the law. If you are convicted, you could be sent to prison for 20 years or more; however, it is possible to fight the charge.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have lawyers that have devoted their careers to protecting people charged with federal crimes like bank robbery. We understand what you’re up against, and we know how to attack the federal government’s evidence, present a strong defense, and get you the best outcome possible. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case and help you understand what to do next.
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What Counts as “Bank Robbery”?
Under the law, robbing a bank doesn’t just involve wearing a mask and pointing a gun at a teller. Federal bank robbery law, 18 U.S.C. §2113, prohibits nonviolent thefts as well as violent ones from several types of financial institutions.
Specifically, §2113 counts all of the following as bank robbery:
- Robbery or theft
- Attempted robbery or theft
- Associated acts
Robbery or Theft
Bank robbing includes armed robbery, after-hours break-ins, and any other ways that “white collar” criminals steal money from banks.
Attempted Robbery or Theft
This statute also prohibits entering a bank, credit union, or savings and loan with the intent to commit any larceny or felony affecting the financial institution. This means you can be convicted even if the theft is never completed.
It’s also a crime to knowingly receive, possess, conceal, sell or dispose of anything that has been taken from a bank, credit union, or savings and loan. You can be convicted of bank robbery even if you did not steal anything, as long as you receive money or property that you know was stolen from a bank.
- 2113 also imposes penalties for a range of acts connected to a bank robbery, as described in the penalties section below.
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What Kinds of Financial Institutions Count as “Banks”?
U.S. attorneys are authorized to bring charges of bank robbery for thefts from several types of financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations.
A bank includes any institution that is a member of the Federal Reserve system, any bank operating under U.S. laws, and any organization whose deposits are insured by the FDIC.
A “credit union” is any federal or state-chartered credit union whose accounts are insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board.
Savings and Loan Associations
These include federal or state savings and loan associations whose deposits are insured by the FDIC.
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What Defenses Can I Use Against a Bank Robbery Charge?
The FBI is tireless in investigating bank robberies and will typically compile extensive evidence to help the prosecution win a conviction. The key to defending against a bank robbery charge is to attack the key elements the prosecution needs to prove, identifying areas where evidence is improper or insufficient. Some of the most common defenses to bank robbery charges include:
- Insufficient evidence
- Mistaken identity
- Police misconduct
To get a conviction, the prosecution must convince a judge or jury that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If your attorney can show that there is simply not enough evidence, you should not be convicted. Your lawyer may cast doubts on the reliability of the evidence presented or show that it is faulty or unclear.
Remember, since the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, you don’t have to prove your innocence. Your lawyer simply needs to be able to cast enough doubt about your possible guilt to avoid a conviction.
Bank robbers often wear masks or take other steps to avoid detection by security cameras or identification by people in the bank. This makes it harder for the prosecution to prove who carried out the theft. In addition, witnesses are often under duress and may not be able to accurately identify the thief.
When there is doubt about the robber’s identity, the prosecution should not win.
Often, police conduct a search for evidence and use interrogation techniques. When law enforcement authorities overstep the bounds of the law, the evidence becomes inadmissible, and prosecutors may be unable to meet their burden of proof.
A search and seizure without probable cause or a search warrant is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. If the evidence against you was gathered in this manner, your attorney will file a motion to suppress this illegally obtained evidence.
In situations where this evidence makes up the bulk of the prosecution’s case, your lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed. Even legally gathered evidence may become inadmissible if the police failed to follow proper procedure in the handling of that evidence, breaking the chain of custody.
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What Are the Penalties for Federal Bank Robbery?
The federal bank robbery statute lays out the penalties for people who commit a variety of acts connected with a bank robbery. As you might expect, the punishments for bank robberies involving force or violence are harsher than those for non-violent offenses.
Taking More than $100
Illegally taking more than $100 from a financial institution is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in federal prison.
Talking Less than $100
Illegally taking an amount less than $100 from a financial institution is punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.
Entering or Attempting to Enter with Intent
Entering or attempting to enter a financial institution with the intent to commit any felony that affects the financial institution can carry fines and up to 20 years in prison.
Possessing or Selling Property Stolen from a Bank
Possessing or selling any property you know has been stolen from a bank also carries fines and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Assault During a Robbery
Assaulting someone or putting their life in jeopardy with a weapon while committing a bank robbery carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, plus fines. This includes fake weapons.
Abducting Someone During a Robbery
Abducting someone while robbing a bank or while trying to avoid being caught carries a minimum of 10 years in prison as well as fines.
Killing Someone During a Robbery
If you kill someone while in the process of robbing a back or while trying to escape, you could face life in prison or the death penalty.
These are severe penalties, and you can expect the prosecutor to be highly prepared, skilled, and armed with a mountain of evidence from the FBI. To give yourself the best possible chance of a successful defense that keeps you out of federal prison, you need an experienced federal crimes lawyer on your team.
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Talk to a Bank Robbery Lawyer in Los Angeles Today for Free
When facing bank robbery charges, it is important to hire legal representation quickly. The longer police have you in custody without a lawyer present, the more time they will have to attempt to get you to say something incriminating. Even if you are innocent of the crime, you might end up saying something that makes you sound guilty.
At the Simmrin Law Group, our criminal lawyers will build an aggressive defense strategy and fight for your rights. Give us a call today or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles bank robbery lawyers. We will advise you of your legal options and get to work preparing your defense.
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