Federal Crime of Armed Robbery and Related Offenses
Robbery is a generally described as a crime that occurs when somebody takes another person's money or property without consent with the use of force.
Depending on where the offenses occurred, it could be charged as either a state or a federal crime, but in spite of which jurisdiction pursues the case, a conviction for armed robbery carries severe penalties if you are convicted.
Readers should note that the vast majority of robbery related charges are handled in a state court as the crime happened within the state's borders.
Typically, federal offenses cross state lines, are committed on federal property, against federal officers, or involves immigration or customs issues.
Put simply, robbery becomes a federal crime when it takes place in a particular location or against a certain person.
The federal crime of armed robbery is a felony offense, which generally requires a longer stint in federal prison and harsher post-conviction consequences.
For the instances above, the prison sentences range from 1 year for stealing less than $1,000 at a bank to 20 for stealing a controlled substance from a DEA agent.
When you add in the use or possession of a dangerous weapon, the sentence length can increase over five years.
If you've just been charged with the federal crime of armed robbery, you may be feeling overwhelmed.
This page from our federal criminal defense attorneys will explain the basics of the law and some examples of applicable defenses, so you know what to expect and can hopefully regain some control over your life.
What is Armed Robbery?
Armed robbery occurs when someone takes someone else's property without consent or permission with violence or intimidation while carrying a dangerous weapon.
As noted, every state has its own armed robbery or aggravated robbery laws, but for armed robbery to be elevated to a federal crime, the crime generally must have been committed while:
- crossing state lines,
- on federal property,
- against federal officers, or
- in an immigration or customs matter.
The Elements of Federal Criminal Armed Robbery
For the prosecution to prove that you have committed federal criminal armed robbery, they must prove each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements include:
- taking property from another person or their presence,
- without their consent,
- with the intention of depriving them of their property,
- by using violence or intimidation,
- while carrying a dangerous weapon.
Taking property from another person or their presence
Robbery begins when a defendant takes, actually carries away, the personal property of another person without their consent. This includes items that are within their presence – close to them and within their control.
Additionally, the victim does not even need to own the item; it just must be in their possession and presence for it to be considered robbery.
With the intention of depriving them of their property
This law requires that the defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the victim of their property at that moment. Even if the defendant intended to use the item and dispose of it, they intended to deprive the owner of being able to use the item ever again.
By using violence or intimidation
Other laws cover theft without violence or intimidation. For an instance of theft to be considered “robbery,” it must include the use of violence or intimidation.
This means, whether you wrestled the owner to the ground to take their phone, or you simply intimidated them and put them in fear of harm, it makes no difference.
While carrying a dangerous weapon
The fifth element of armed robbery is using or possessing a dangerous weapon while conducting the robbery. The use or carrying of a dangerous weapon elevates the crime of robbery so that it has harsher punishments.
Different Types of Federal Criminal Robbery Offenses
While the elements of armed robbery are similar in every state, for it to be considered a federal crime, it must include the use or carrying of a dangerous weapon and be conducted in one of the following situations:
Special maritime and territorial jurisdiction: if an armed robbery takes place on the high seas in the U.S.'s jurisdiction, on a vessel registered to the U.S., on land for U.S. use, or on an aircraft belonging to the U.S., it is considered a federal crime.
United States property: it's a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2112 to steal, or attempt to steal, property owned by the U.S. government defined and carries 15 years in a federal prison if you are convicted.
Federal banks: it's a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2113 to take property or money under the control of financial institutions. A bank robbery conviction can result in 10 to 20 years in prison, along with steep fines.
Post offices: robbery of a post office can result in a federal prison sentence of up to five years.
Carrier Facilities: It's illegal to break into a vehicle conducting interstate shipping or carrying foreign items and a conviction can result in up t 10 years in prison.
Controlled substances: if somebody steals a controlled substance under the control of a drug enforcement agent, they could be sentenced to up to 15 years.
Motor vehicles: it's a federal crime to steal vehicles that are being transported across state or country borders and a convicted can result in up to 15 years.
Interference with commerce by threats or violence: 18 U.S.C. § 2113 makes it a federal crime to obstruct or delay commerce, or conspires to do so, by robbery or extortion, or threatens physical violence to any person.
Using and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence: 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) imposes mandatory minimum terms of prison for a conviction for the use of a firearm while committing a federal crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense.
Defenses for Federal Armed Robbery Case
If you are charged with a federal robbery offense, there are a few defenses that can be used on your behalf.
The first is “mistaken identity.” In this defense, your attorney would build a case to show that the police had arrested the wrong person.
Alternatively, and more commonly, your attorney would set out to prove that there is not enough evidence to show that you committed each element of the crime.
Did you have a dangerous weapon on you at the time? Did you take away someone else's property, or was it yours to begin with and you were simply taking it back?
Did you, in fact, commit this crime in one of the federal locations listed above? If your attorney can prove that you did not, the jury will see the crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and your case will be dismissed.
If you are convicted of any type of robbery case under federal laws, you will be facing severe penalties. Thus, if you are under investigation or already indicted, then you need to discuss the situation with an experienced federal defense lawyer.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County and we serve clients in California and across the United States. You can reach our firm for a consultation by calling 877-781-1570, or submit an online contact form.