You can be charged with armed robbery if you took another person's property without their consent and used a weapon to threaten them or commit violence against them in the process. Aside from having a deadly weapon in your possession at the time of the offense, you can also be charged with armed robbery under the following circumstances:
- The weapon was not real or not usually considered lethal, such as a water pistol or pellet gun
- You said or implied you had a weapon when you committed the crime, even though you weren't armed during the offense
The charge can elevate to a federal charge in certain cases, and penalties upon conviction can include considerable fines and prison time.
If you face federal charges for armed robbery, you are likely concerned about the potential impact on your life and future. However, you have a right to defend yourself against the charges, and you should consult with an experienced federal defense attorney for a full evaluation of your case.
What Makes Armed Robbery a Federal Offense?
U.S.C. Title 18, Chapter 103 defines crimes for robbery and burglary at the federal level, along with their penalties. Robbery becomes a federal crime in the following circumstances:
- It took place on federal property or within a territorial jurisdiction of the United States
- It was against a federal officer or employee, including a postal worker
- It involved robbing, or attempting to rob, the government or a federal institution, including a bank
- The crime took place across state lines or international boundaries
Other offenses can elevate the charge as well, including:
- Robbing a carrier or customs facility
- Stealing controlled substances
- Transporting stolen vehicles across state or country borders
The facts and circumstances surrounding your charge are important because they will determine the penalties you could face if convicted. They are also vital in developing your defense.
Convictions for federal crimes typically carry harsher sentences than state crimes. Possible maximum prison sentences for various federal robbery crimes include:
- Up to 15 years in prison if the crime occurred on federal property, which includes water vessels and aircraft belonging to or registered with the U.S. government
- Up to 15 years for stealing “personal property of the United States”
- Up to 5 years for robbing a post office, and up to 10 years for robbing a carrier or customs facility
- Up to 15 years for transporting stolen vehicles across state or international boundaries, or up to 25 years if you injured someone during the process
- Up to 10 years for a first offense of stealing mail, money, or other U.S. property, or up to 25 years if you injured or threatened the life of the person who has custody of it, such as a mail carrier
- Up to 25 years for armed robbery of controlled substances
- Up to 25 years for armed bank robbery
Penalties may be enhanced if you killed or kidnapped someone in the process of the robbery or during your attempt to escape. The government imposes a 10-year minimum prison sentence, and the maximum penalty could be life in prison or even the death penalty.
Penalties for conviction of federal armed robbery can also include substantial fines, and fines for armed bank robbery can be as high as $250,000.
Possible Defenses for Federal Armed Robbery
A conviction on any type of federal armed robbery charge will invariably affect your life and future. It is crucial that you fully evaluate your options for mounting an effective defense. Some possible defenses against federal armed robbery include:
Mistaken identity – People make mistakes, and that includes witnesses to a crime. Even video or photographic evidence is sometimes blurry or hard to see. Additionally, those who rob banks, for instance, often conceal their identity by wearing masks.
Just because prosecutors claim it was you who committed the robbery, you may be able to use mistaken identity if you can prove you were not involved. You may also be able to challenge the evidence that implicates you enough to create reasonable doubt with the jury regarding your involvement.
Duress – Duress means that you did something against your own free will. If you can prove someone else forced you to commit the crime by threatening you or they incited or encouraged you to commit the crime, you may be able to claim you acted under duress.
Where the crime occurred – If you can show the crime did not occur on federal property or territorial jurisdiction, then you may be able to have the federal charge dismissed.
The financial institution was not a bank – For bank robbery specifically, you may have a defense depending on whether the financial institution was organized and operating under U.S. or international banking laws. These include all federal banks, state banks, foreign banks, and any financial institution insured by the FDIC. They also include the National Credit Union and state-chartered credit unions.
If you can show the financial institution does not fall under any of the definitions in 18 U.S.C §2113 (f)-(h), then a jury should not find you guilty of federal bank robbery.
Hire a Federal Defense Attorney
Federal prosecutors must obtain a grand jury indictment before officially charging and prosecuting you for your alleged crime. However, they can file a complaint in federal court against you and arrest you as the grand jury deliberates. Prosecutors and law enforcement will have also conducted an extensive investigation of the alleged offense and your suspected involvement in it.
Although federal prosecutors may have enough evidence to charge you, that does not mean they have enough evidence to convict you. You have a right to a fair and impartial jury trial, but you will need an attorney who can assist you in understanding your rights and options and advise you accordingly.
You also want an attorney who will help you build a comprehensive defense strategy to answer the charges, challenge the evidence, and obtain a favorable outcome.
Since your case will be heard in a federal district court in Pennsylvania, you also need an attorney who has experience trying cases in federal court.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience helping clients defend against federal armed robbery charges. He will evaluate your case and respectfully advise you of your options. He can also help you develop an effective defense and fight for your rights and future. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation.