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When Is Bank Robbery A Federal Crime?

April 13, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently, a man that formerly lived in Erie pleaded guilty to committing two bank robberies in the City of Erie just over two years ago. The man’s case was heard in federal court and he was charged with bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and carrying a firearm during the commission of the crime. The first time the man robbed the bank was in November of 2018 and he took $5,000. The second time the man took $6,100 from the same bank in December of 2018. The story is an interesting one because it highlights the difference between state and federal laws.

Is Bank Robbery Always a Federal Crime?

In 1934, it became a federal crime to rob any national bank or state member bank of the Federal Reserve System. However, not all banks are members of the Federal Reserve. State banks have the option to become a member of the Federal Reserve System. Many banks choose to become a member because the oversight provides clear, efficient, and ethical channels between the bank and its customers. However, some state banks still choose not to become a member because they must first meet certain requirements and regulation is typically much stricter.

In the above story, the man pleaded guilty to robbing a bank, which is a member of the Federal Reserve System and so, the offense was considered a federal crime. If the bank had not been a member of the Federal Reserve System, the man would have likely faced state bank robbery charges.

How Does Federal Law Define Bank Robbery?

The federal crime of bank robbery is defined in 18 USC 2113. Under the definition provided in the Code, bank robbery occurs when a person steals or attempts to steal cash or property of any value that belongs to a credit union, bank, or savings and loan association. While the man in the recent story walked into a bank and stole money, bank robbery does not always involve this same scenario. Stealing money or property from a bank machine, night depository, or an armored truck is also considered bank robbery.

Individuals that are convicted of the federal offense of bank robbery face a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both. When a person’s life was in jeopardy, or someone was killed or abducted during the commission of the crime, those penalties increase significantly. Due to these harsh penalties, it is crucial that anyone facing federal bank robbery charges speaks to a criminal defense lawyer that can assist with their case.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Charges

If you have been charged with bank robbery, or any other crime, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers are here to help. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we will use the defenses available to build you a strong case that will give you the best chance of beating the charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help with your case.



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