Although the crime of bank robbery has a legendary and sometimes glamorous history, popularized by literature, television and movies, it is legally and technically nothing more complicated than a form of robbery that involves banks. However, it is one of the most serious crimes a person can face in the criminal justice system, both because the offense is largely pre-empted by federal law, and the penalties are quite severe.
Bank robbery is outlawed by Title 18 of the United States Code, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 2113. Part (a) reads as follows:
Whoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take, from the person or presence of another, or obtains or attempts to obtain by extortion any property or money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association; or
Whoever enters or attempts to enter any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association, or any building used in whole or in part as a bank, credit union, or as a savings and loan association, with intent to commit in such bank, credit union, or in such savings and loan association, or building, or part thereof, so used, any felony affecting such bank, credit union, or such savings and loan association and in violation of any statute of the United States, or any larceny—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
While robbery requires force or intimidation, the federal bank robbery statute also punishes anybody who steals from banks in other ways. Thus, it is also a crime to receive stolen bank money, to possess, conceal, store, sell, barter or dispose of any money or property known to have been unlawfully taken from a bank.
Defenses to Bank Robbery
- Unlawful search and seizure. If police overstep their bounds when conducting a search and seizure, a court may suppress any evidence obtained through the search. This may in turn prompt the prosecutor to dismiss the case for lack of proof.
- Suggestive Lineups. A motion to suppress the evidence may also be filed to throw out an improper eyewitness Identification. For example, a photographic “line-up” may consist of six photographs laid out on one piece of 8 ½ by 11 paper. If one of the photographs on this kind of “six-pack” line-up stands out for any reason (g., the color of the background is different; the person is wearing a different colored top than the others; the person has hair while the others do not) the lineup can be deemed a “suggestive” lineup and thus invalid.
- Insufficient evidence. A defendant may be acquitted if the prosecution fails to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt may arise where the state’s evidence is full of holes, where witness testimony is inconsistent or unreliable; where facts, times and other details do not add up; where critical pieces of information are missing, rendering the state’s case unreliable or simply not credible.
- Mistaken identity. Only the most amateur bank robber gets caught on security cameras. Therefore, most cases turn on the ability of witnesses to recall the robber’s face or other identifying features. In the panic and frenzy of a robbery, bank tellers and others may have confused memories, and experienced criminal defense lawyers can exploit these weaknesses.
Bank robbery is a serious crime. If you or someone you know has been implicated in this criminal offense, please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.