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Bank Robbery


Under the federal Bank Robbery Act of 1934, as amended, 18 U.S.C §§2113, 3231 (1999), banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations that are (1) organized under federal law; (2) part of the federal system; or (3) federally insured are protected. This section of the United States Code defines bank as any banking or trust institution that is organized and operating under United States law and that is either a member of the Federal Reserve System or has its deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Concurrently, this statute also applies to those savings and loan associations that have their accounts insured by the FDIC (§2113(f ), (g)).

The act makes it a federal offense for anyone to take or attempt to take by force and violence or intimidation anything of value belonging to one of the protected institutions, or anything that is in one of the protected institution's care, custody, control, management, or possession (§ 2113(a)). The statute divides the offense of bank robbery into various stages, making criminal the acts that constitute the steps of the crime.

First, the entering of a protected bank or savings and loan association with the intent to commit a felony therein is a crime. Second, Section 2113(b) addresses the stage of taking and carrying away the property of the protected institution. The escape phase of the robbery is regarded as part of the robbery itself, not as a separate event that takes place afterward. Hence, any party assisting or participating in that phase of the robbery becomes a principal to the crime itself (United States v. von Roeder, 435 F.2d 1004 (10th Cir. 1970), vacated and remanded sub nom. Schreiner v. United States, 404 U.S. 67 (1971)). Third, Section 2113(c) deals with what one does with the stolen property. Any other party who becomes involved in this stage of the act is subject to the same punishment he would have incurred if he had robbed the bank. Fourth, Section 2113(d) makes the acts described in sections 2113(a) and 2113(b) subject to a heavier penalty if anyone's life is put in jeopardy with the use of a dangerous weapon or device or if the person committing or attempting to commit the offense assaults any person. Finally, Section 2113(e) allows a jury to authorize the death penalty if any offense described within the act is accompanied by a killing or a kidnapping.

The question is commonly posed whether an unlawful entry and a robbery that follows are two separate offenses, consecutively punishable. The United States Supreme Court in Prince v. United States, 352 U.S. 322 (1957) answered in the negative. The Court concluded that the unlawfulentry provision was included in the act to cover an instance in which a person entered a bank intending to rob it but became frustrated before doing so. Conversely, the Court stated, where one entered a bank intending to rob it and did rob it, the two crimes merged. The provision of the act that addresses the receiving of stolen property is intended not to increase the robber's punishment, but rather to punish the ones who eventually and knowingly receive the stolen money (Heflin v. United States, 358 U.S. 415 (1959)).

Section 2113(e), which deals with kidnapping and murder, especially where these acts are committed after the robbery and in an attempt to avoid apprehension, may provide separate and distinct crimes from the robbery provision (United States v. Parker, 283 F.2d 862 (7th Cir. 1960); Duboice v. United States, 195 F.2d 371 (8th Cir. 1952); Clark v. United States, 184 F.2d 952 (10th Cir. 1950)). However, it has been suggested that the entire statute creates a single offense, with various degrees of sentences allowed for the increasing severity of the crime (United States v. Drake, 250 F.2d 216 (7th Cir. 1957); Simunov v. United States, 162 F.2d 314 (6th Cir. 1947); Wells v. Swope, 121 F. Supp. 718 (N.D. Cal. 1954)). From the Supreme Court's decision in Prince, this latter view appears to be supported, even though the Court did not expressly overrule the other cases.

Depending on the facts of the alleged violation of the Bank Robbery Act, various sentences may be imposed on the offender on the different counts of the indictment without constituting double jeopardy (United States v. Koury, 319 F.2d 75 (6th Cir. 1963)). However, if the defendant is charged with separate counts of jeopardizing the lives of different persons, this is generally regarded as but one offense, and only one sentence may be imposed (McDonald v. Johnston, 149 F.2d 768 (9th Cir. 1945); McDonald v. Hudspeth, 129 F.2d 196 (10th Cir. 1942)). Analogous to this reasoning, as shown in United States v. McKenzie, 414 F.2d 808 (3rd Cir. 1969) and Holbrook v. Hunter, 149 F.2d 230 (10th Cir. 1945), where one is charged with committing a robbery and also with assault, only one sentence may be imposed.



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