Laws Regarding Federal Bank Robbery Charges in California – (18 USC 2113)
We’ve all seen the many movies involving masked men armed with guns descending upon a bank and running off with millions in cash. It’s a story line that is often romanticized and seemingly never goes out of style in Hollywood. In 1934, after the public was dazzled by the likes of John Dillinger and other infamous criminals, bank robbery became a federal crime.1 It continues to be a serious issue for authorities as the FBI reported about 4,000 bank robberies nationwide in 2014 alone.2
Federal bank robbery is covered under Title 18 section 2113 of the United States Code (18 USC 2113) as part of a comprehensive statute that has expanded to include other theft crimes as well. Under this law, federal bank robbery is defined as the “taking or attempted taking by force, intimidation, or extortion, of any property, money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management or possession of any bank, credit union, or savings and loan association.”3
Here are some examples of situations where you might be charged with federal bank robbery in violation of 18 USC 2113:
- You walk up to the bank counter and hand a note to the teller that says, “I have a weapon in my pocket, calmly hand over $100,000 in cash or things will get messy.” The teller complies with your command and you calmly walk away without incident.
- You threaten a bank customer at gunpoint to withdraw money from an outdoor bank ATM and steal the money. Note here that the customer did not have control over the bank money. If the customer already had the money in his or her possession, this may not constitute federal bank robbery.4
Night Depositories, ATMs, and Armored Trucks
18 USC 2113 also encompasses the robbery of –
- an armored truck or bank messenger;
- a night depository; or
- an automatic teller machine (ATM).
If convicted of bank robbery involving any of those items, you will face the same fines and punishment as robbing a bank under 18 USC 21130.
In addition, you could be charged with other crimes in connection with robbing a bank depending on the facts of your case. These may include:
- Federal burglary or larceny (18 USC § 2113(a));
- Federal receipt of stolen bank property (18 USC § 2113 (c));
- Federal assault with a deadly weapon (18 USC § 2113 (d));
- First degree felony murder (California Pen. Code, § 189);
- Robbery (California Pen. Code, § 211);
- Assault with deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury (California Pen. Code, § 245); or
- Extortion (California Pen. Code, § 245).
Prosecution of Federal Bank Robbery under 18 USC 2113
In order for you to be convicted of federal bank robbery in violation of 18 USC 2113, the prosecution must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:5
- You took or attempted to take money, property, or another specific thing of value from the person or presence of another belonging to or in the care, custody, control, management or possession of a bank, savings and loan association, or credit union;
- At the time charged in the indictment the bank or credit union had its deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union Administration; AND
- You acted to take such money; property; or other specific thing of value by force and violence, or by intimidation.
Sentencing & Punishment for Federal Bank Robbery
If you are found guilty of felony bank robbery in violation of 18 USC 2113, you face a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000 or both fine and imprisonment.6
However, the penalties could substantially increase under the following conditions:
- If you assault any person in the course of robbing a bank or “jeopardize the life of any person” by using a dangerous weapon or device you will be subject to increased fines and up to twenty-five years in prison.7
- If you kill or abduct another person during the course of robbing a bank or while attempting to flee or avoid being caught by the authorities, you face life in prison or the death penalty.8
Possible Defenses to Federal Bank Robbery Charges
A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise several legal defenses to federal bank robbery charges (18 USC 2113) in your case. These defenses may include:
- You did not use force, violence or intimidation. If you did not use force, violence or intimidation, you should not be convicted of federal bank robbery. For example, if you used fraud or deceit to withdraw funds from another person’s account electronically, you may be found guilty of one or more federal fraud crimes, but not federal bank robbery.
- The institution you took was not a bank. If the institution you stole money from was not a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association as defined under 18 USC 2113(f)-(h), you should not be found guilty of federal bank robbery. Say, for example, you enter a grocery store and force another at gunpoint to withdraw funds from a US Bank ATM located within the store. This does not constitute bank robbery because, although the money was withdrawn from a US Bank ATM, the ATM is owned (or leased) and operated by the grocery store.
- Mistaken identity. If you are able to show that you were not the person who made or attempted the bank robbery, you should not be convicted of federal bank robbery. For example, if the alleged bank robber was wearing a mask, which is oftentimes the case, the prosecution may have a difficult time proving that you were the alleged robber.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association for purposes of federal bank robbery laws?
A bank is an institution that is a member of the Federal Reserve System or any institution that insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or FDIC.9 Similarly, a “savings and loan association” is an entity that has accounts insured by the FDIC or any American corporation that designates itself as savings association.10
A credit union is any state or federal institution whose accounts are insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board, and any “Federal Credit Union” as defined in section 2 of the Federal Credit Union Act.11
Can I be charged with federal bank robbery for stealing money from the ATM machine?
Yes, ATM machines are within the bank’s control and management of the bank. The relevant question is whether the bank owns and operates the ATM and whether the FDIC insures those funds, not whether the ATM and store are FDIC insured. However, robbing a person who has just withdrawn money from a bank ATM does not constitute federal bank robbery because the alleged victim already had possession and control of the money at the time the alleged robbery took place. 12
What if I merely agree to be the getaway driver?
This is considered aiding and abetting a crime and you will be subject to the same penalties if you “knowingly receive, possess, conceal, store, barter, sell or dispose of any property, money, or any thing of value which has been taken or stolen from a bank.”13 Thus, even if you do not physically enter a bank and take anything yourself, once the principal of the crime enters your vehicle, you are in possession of stolen bank property and liable for the crime the same as if you went in the bank with a gun yourself.
Can I be convicted of federal armed bank robbery even if I used a toy gun to rob the bank?
Yes, a toy replica that simulates the appearance, but not weight, of genuine firearm is a “dangerous weapon” within meaning of federal armed bank robbery under 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(d).14
Contact a Federal Defense Attorney Immediately
If you or a loved one has been charged with federal bank robbery in violation of United States Code 18 USC 2113, you need to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately. Wallin & Klarich has been successfully defending those facing federal bank robbery charges for over 30 years. We can help you, too.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
5. Pen. Code, § 18 USC 2113↩
6. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(a) (West)↩
7. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(d)(West)↩
8. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(e) (West)↩
9. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(f) (West)↩
10. 12 U.S.C.A. § 1813(b)(1)(c) (West)↩
11. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113(g) (West)↩
12. U.S. v. Haas (8th Cir. 2010) 623 F.3d 1214↩
14. U.S. v. Martinez-Jimenez (9th Cir. 1989) 864 F.2d 664↩