What Are Federal Robbery Offenses?
The crime of robbery is the taking of anything of value from someone by physical force or by instilling fear of serious bodily injury in the victim. Robbery is often described as inherently violent because it usually involves a physical confrontation between the perpetrator and the victim.
Most robbery cases are prosecuted under state-level laws in a state courtroom. Still, there are situations where robbery will be considered a federal offense, such as when it occurs in a particular location or against a specific person.
Robbery offenders have consistently risen in the federal criminal justice system. For example, robbery offenses have increased to 2.3% of the federal caseload during the past ten years.
Hobbs Act robbery, bank robbery, and carjacking make up the majority of robbery-related convictions. Convictions for bank robbery account for well over one-half of robbery cases.
Robbery offenders typically have more extensive criminal histories than other violent offenders and often engage in dangerous, aggravating conduct. Most robberies involve a threat of physical force against the victim, and some use force resulting in bodily injury.
Robbery offenders are more likely to be sentenced as career or armed career criminals than violent offenders. For example, robbery offenders with prior convictions usually have at least one prior conviction for a violent offense.
Federal robbery cases typically receive a significant prison sentence. Still, they will vary based on whether the offender was also convicted under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) for using or carrying a firearm during the offense. Let's review the federal robbery statutes below.
What Are the Federal Robbery Statutes?
The statutes in the United States Code that deal with the crime of federal robbery include the following:
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 95 – Racketeering law prohibits robbery interfering with commerce by threats or violence (Hobbs Act robbery).
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 103 – Robbery and Burglary law deals with several types of robbery, such as bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2114 robbery of United States mail, 18 U.S.C. 2115 post office, 18 U.S.C. 2117 breaking and entering carrier facilities, 18 U.S.C. 2118 robbery involving controlled substances, 18 U.S.C. 2119 motor vehicles;
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 111 – Shipping law deals with robbery involving maritime navigation and fixed platforms;
- 26 U.S. Code Chapter 75 – Crimes, Other Offenses, and Forfeitures law are related to the robbery of property that was seized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS);
- 18 U.S.C. 1962 - Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) – makes it a crime for anyone who received income or is involved in a criminal enterprise that is engaged in activities affecting interstate or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity;
- 18 U.S.C. 1959 - Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity (VICAR) - It includes robbery under state law and Hobbs Act robbery. Also, it makes it a crime to commit any of the violent crimes listed in the statute from a criminal enterprise engaged in racketeering activity or to join, remain with, or advance in such criminal enterprise;
- 18 U.S.C. 2112 – This statute makes it a federal crime to rob or attempt to rob another person of any personal property belonging to the United States steal, and carries 15 years in federal prison if convicted;
- 18 U.S.C. 924(c) – This law imposes mandatory minimum prison terms for a conviction for using a firearm while committing a federal crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense.
Hobbs Act Robbery - 18 U.S.C. 1951
This federal statute, called “Interference with commerce by threats or violence,” prohibits the obstruction or delay of commerce or the movement of any items in commerce by robbery or extortion.
Also, the Hobbs Act prohibits committing or threatening physical violence to any individual or property in furtherance of a plan to violate the statute, and it addresses conspiracy and attempts to commit the offense.
18 U.S.C. 1951(b)(1) defines robbery as “the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury….”
Federal prosecutors use the Hobbs Act to indict people for a wide range of alleged criminal conduct. Any effect on interstate or foreign commerce, even slightly (de minimis), is sufficient to satisfy federal jurisdiction requirements. Thus, Hobbs Act includes robberies of the following:
- Retail stores and commercial businesses;
- A private residence (home invasion), when the target of the robbery is an item that moves in interstate commerce, such as firearms and drugs;
- Drugs and drug proceeds.
Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 1951. In that case, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a fine. An attempt or conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery carries the same penalties.
Bank Robbery - 18 U.S.C. 2113
This federal statute prohibits anyone from taking or attempting to take by force, violence, intimidation, money, or other property from any bank, credit union, or savings and loan association.
It also includes banks, etc., that are operating inside grocery stores, malls, and other retail businesses and commercial buildings. Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 2113. In that case, you face the following penalties:
- The statutory penalty for bank robbery has a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a fine, or both.
- Under 18 U.S.C. 2113(d) armed bank robbery, if you assault someone by using a dangerous weapon or device, you face up to 25 years in prison.
- Under 18 U.S.C. 2113(e), if you kill or abduct someone during the robbery or while avoiding or attempting to avoid arrest or confinement for the robbery, you face a minimum of ten years in prison. If someone is killed, you face life in prison or the death penalty;
- Any conspiracy to commit bank robbery is prosecuted under the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 371, which imposes up to five years in prison.
Carjacking - 18 U.S.C. 2119
This federal carjacking statute prohibits anyone from taking or attempting to take a motor vehicle from someone by force and violence or by intimidation with the intent to cause serious bodily harm or death.
Notably, the perpetrator does not have to take the vehicle across state lines to be charged with a federal crime. It's sufficient for federal jurisdiction that the perpetrator forcibly takes or attempts to take a motor vehicle once transported or received in interstate or foreign commerce.
The United States Congress enacted the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992 in response to a substantial nationwide increase in motor vehicle thefts, including armed carjacking.
They also enacted the federal death penalty Act as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which imposed death when a victim was killed during the commission of the offense.
Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 2119. In that case, you face the following penalties:
- The statutory penalty for carjacking is up to ten years in prison;
- If the carjacking results in serious bodily injury to a victim, you face up to 25 years in prison or death;
- Perpetrators who conspire to commit carjacking are prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 371, which carries up to five years in prison.
What is Armed Robbery?
Armed robbery occurs when somebody takes property without consent or permission with violence or intimidation while carrying a dangerous weapon. However, to be charged as a federal offense, it must have the following elements:
- Crossed state lines,
- Occurred on federal property,
- It was against federal officers, or
- Related to an immigration or customs matter.
What Are the Defenses for Federal Robbery?
Suppose you are charged with a federal robbery offense. In that case, a federal criminal defense attorney could use various strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of mistaken identity. Maybe we can prove that federal agents arrested the wrong person.
Perhaps we can argue that there is insufficient evidence to prove all the elements of the crime. Maybe we can say that no force or threats were used.
Perhaps we can argue that the offense does not fall under federal jurisdiction but rather a state crime with lesser penalties. Perhaps we can convince the prosecutor that their case can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and dismiss it.
You will face severe penalties if convicted of any robbery case under federal laws. Thus, you need to consult with legal counsel immediately if you are under investigation.
We offer a free case evaluation by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.