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Last Updated on: 18th October 2023, 09:02 am
Bank robbery is no joke. It’s a serious federal crime that can land you in prison for up to 20 years. Let’s break down the law and talk about what it really means to rob a bank.
18 U.S.C. § 2113 is the federal statute that makes bank robbery a crime. It says that anyone who takes or tries to take money or property from a bank by force, violence, or intimidation is guilty of bank robbery. You don’t actually have to use a weapon or threaten someone for it to be considered bank robbery. Just entering a bank and demanding money is enough.
The law covers all kinds of financial institutions, not just typical banks. Credit unions, savings and loans, even check cashing stores can be considered “banks” under this statute. As long as the business is insured by the FDIC or NCUA, it’s covered.
Bank robbery is a federal crime prosecuted by the FBI and U.S. attorneys. It’s separate from any state laws against robbery, extortion, larceny, etc. So you can be charged and convicted under both federal and state laws for the same crime.
The penalties for bank robbery depend on exactly what you did:
In addition to prison time, bank robbers often face hefty fines up to $250,000. Any stolen money or property must also be returned.
The penalties are harsh because bank robbery is considered a “crime of violence” under federal law. The FBI even classifies it as a “priority one” matter. When a bank is robbed, they pull out all the stops to catch the perpetrator.
So what defenses can you raise against a federal bank robbery charge? There are a few options:
These defenses occasionally work in state court, but federal judges and juries tend to take a pretty dim view of bank robbery regardless of the circumstances. Your best bet is probably to plead guilty and cooperate in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Bank robbery isn’t as common as it used to be, but it still happens. Here are some notable recent cases:
As these cases show, bank robbery remains a problem even if the techniques aren’t as sophisticated as in the past. Desperate people still see it as a quick way to get cash, even if the consequences are severe.
Given the harsh penalties, you might wonder if bank robbery is ever morally justifiable. Some have argued that stealing from insured banks isn’t really “stealing” or that it’s okay to break the law for a greater good. Others see bank robbers as modern day “Robin Hoods.”
But the overwhelming consensus is that bank robbery is a serious crime that should be condemned. Even if you don’t physically hurt anyone, you traumatize innocent bank employees and endanger lives. There are always better solutions than taking the law into your own hands, regardless of your circumstances. While bank robbers in movies seem heroic, in real life they usually end up in handcuffs. It’s a foolish way to try to solve your problems.
Bank robbery may seem like a dying breed of crime, but don’t expect it to disappear completely. As long as banks exist, there will be people desperate enough to rob them. And with the sophisticated technology used in banks today, would-be robbers have a lot working against them. Vaults filled with cash are largely a thing of the past. Dye packs, GPS trackers, and other security measures make the average score pretty low.
That won’t stop some from trying. But with the FBI’s robust response and the long prison sentences, bank robbery remains a very high-risk, low-reward crime that hopefully we’ll see less of in the years to come. The romanticized days of gangsters with tommy guns are over. Bank robbery today is a one-way ticket to federal prison.
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