18 USC 2113 Federal Criminal Bank Robbery Laws

by Sami Azhari on January 25, 2019

According to the FBI’s Bank Crime Report for 2016 (the most recent year available), a total of 4,251 violations of the federal bank robbery code were committed. Of these, 215 occurred in Illinois. These violations are handled under Section 2113 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits the taking or attempted taking of money, property, or items of value from federal banking institutions. Depending on which section of the statute is violated, and the manner in which the crime is committed, penalties ranging from imprisonment to the death penalty may be imposed.

18 U.S.C. §2113 defines institutions that are covered by the statute. These institutions include any bank that is a member of the federal reserve association, credit unions, savings and loan associations, trust companies, savings banks, branches of foreign banks, any other banking association, and any institution whose deposits are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”). The vast majority of these crimes happen at branch offices, which are squarely covered under this section. Defendants in custody on bank robbery charges awaiting trial frequently attempt to defeat their case based on this issue. Such motions are frivolous, as federal jurisdiction is easily established.

What kind of conduct is prohibited?

Conduct barred by the statute includes both the crime and the attempt to commit the crime. 18 U.S.C. §2113(a) prohibits the attempt to take or the taking of property, money, or any item of value from a covered financial institution by the use of force. Additionally, the entry of such an institution with the mere intent to commit the robbery is also covered under subsection (a). So, if a party enters the bank with the intent to commit the bank robbery but does not have the opportunity to take further action, they may still be charged under the statute and punished in the same manner as if they had been successful.

18 U.S.C. §2113(b) precludes the taking of property belonging to a covered institution, and applies to situations when force is not used to obtain the money, property, or thing of value. This subsection also sets out separate penalties for cases in which a violator takes more or less than $1,000.

18 U.S.C. §2113(c) covers participants who may not have taken the property, but who nonetheless participated in the crime by receiving, possessing, hiding, selling, trading, or disposing of the property, money, or thing of value. A violation of this subsection will subject the violator to the same punishment as that which is provided for the taker, which is set forth in subsection (b).

Think back to the 1995 film Heat, starring Robert De Niro. In the film, De Niro runs a crew of robbers who hold up a Los Angeles bank. After stealing over a million dollars’ worth of bonds, there is a suggestion to sell the bonds back to the original owner (played by Jon Voight), so that he could profit by filing an insurance claim on the stolen bonds. By agreeing to this scheme, Jon Voight’s character could have been charged under 18 U.S.C. §2113(c).

Subsections (d) and (e) kick in when there is injury or threat of injury to another party during the attempt or commission of the crime. It prohibits the assault or jeopardizing of the life of another by using a dangerous weapon or device. Notably, this section would cover a fake gun or non-functioning device. Subsection (e) precludes the kidnapping or killing of another during an attempt to avoid being caught for the offense. This subsection also sets forth the most serious punishments.

What are the possible penalties?

Violations of 18 U.S.C. §2113 almost always result in a prison sentence; however, serious violations could result in the death penalty. Under subsection (a), violators who use force to obtain the money, property, or thing of value can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years. Where force is not used, subsection (b) imposes a fine and/or 10 years in prison for the theft of items valuing more than $1,000. If no force is used and the value stolen is less than $1,000, violators may be subjected to a fine and/or up to one year imprisonment.

If, while violating subsection (a) or (b), a person is assaulted or the violator puts a person’s life in jeopardy, a fine and/or up to 25 years in prison may be imposed. Finally, for situations where someone is kidnapped, taken hostage, or killed while the violator attempts to flee or elude capture, the penalty may include both a fine and life in prison or the death penalty.

Sentencing Guidelines

What determines a defendant’s sentence are the federal sentencing guidelines. In the case of bank robbery, 2B3.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines applies.

Hypothetical: A defendant was indicted on bank robber charges. He stole $1,500 dollars from a financial institution and threatened the bank teller and brandished a gun. The defendant has no other criminal history.

Applicable Guidelines:

  • Base level offense of Robbery – 20 points §2B3.1
  • Taking from a financial institution – 2 point enhancement §2B3.1(b)(1)
  • Threat of death – 2 point enhancement §2B3.1(b)(2)
  • Use of a dangerous weapon – 3 point enhancement §2B3.1(b)(2)

The point total of the hypothetical would be 27, bringing the defendants guideline range to 70-87 months.

What are some related statutes?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, violators may also be charged with several related statutes, including conspiracy. 18 U.S.C. §371 is the general federal conspiracy statute. It encompasses a variety of crimes, including bank robbery. It covers conspiracies to defraud the United States and conspiracies to violate any other provision of United States law. As such, the conspiracy statute can be used to prosecute even minor actors in a bank robbery scheme.

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