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Defending Against Federal Armed Bank Robbery Charges in California


Defending Against Federal Armed Bank Robbery Charges in California

Bank robbery is a serious federal crime that carries severe penalties, including decades in prison. But just because you’ve been accused doesn’t mean you’re guilty or that there’s no hope. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can review the evidence against you, identify weaknesses in the government’s case, and build a strong defense to get charges reduced or dismissed.

This article will explain the federal laws on bank robbery, typical penalties, how cases are investigated and prosecuted, and proven strategies for defense. I’ll also share stories of real cases I’ve handled to show you how the right legal approach can make all the difference. My goal is to educate and empower you on how to fight these charges in California.

Federal Laws on Bank Robbery

The main federal law on bank robbery is 18 U.S.C. § 2113. It lays out four separate bank robbery offenses:

  • Bank robbery by force, violence, or intimidation (§ 2113(a))
  • Entering a bank with intent to commit larceny (§ 2113(b))
  • Bank robbery resulting in death or kidnapping (§ 2113(e))
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon during a bank robbery (§ 2113(d))

The most serious is § 2113(a), which applies when you take money by force and violence, or by intimidation. It’s punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

Section 2113(b) covers entering a bank to steal money, even without violence. It carries up to 10 years behind bars. Sections 2113(d) and 2113(e) apply to bank robberies involving assault weapons (up to 25 years) or kidnapping/murder (up to life imprisonment or death).

Prosecutors can also tack on charges for conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and using a firearm during a violent crime. Bottom line – bank robbery convictions mean hard time in a federal penitentiary.

Christine Twomey
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Penalties for Federal Bank Robbery

The penalties for bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113 depend on which subsection you’re convicted under:

  • § 2113(a) bank robbery: Up to 20 years in prison
  • § 2113(b) bank larceny: Up to 10 years in prison
  • § 2113(d) armed bank robbery: Up to 25 years in prison
  • § 2113(e) bank robbery resulting in death/kidnapping: Life in prison or death

These are just the maximum sentences. Your actual sentence will depend on your criminal history and any plea bargain you can negotiate with the prosecution. But you’re looking at serious prison time if convicted.

In addition to imprisonment, you’ll face hefty fines up to $250,000 and have to pay restitution to the bank. Any assets linked to the robbery – like getaway cars or hideouts – can be seized by the government. You’ll also lose certain rights, like voting and owning a firearm.

Simply put, a federal bank robbery conviction ruins lives. That’s why building an aggressive legal defense from day one is so critical.

How Federal Bank Robbery Cases Are Investigated

When a bank is robbed, the FBI immediately launches an intensive investigation. They’ll interview witnesses, gather physical evidence, review surveillance footage, and track down leads. The goal is to identify suspects and build a rock-solid criminal case.

If the FBI investigation points to you, expect a SWAT team to show up guns drawn to arrest you. They’ll scour your home, car, digital devices, financial records, and anywhere else they think they’ll find evidence. Interrogations, lineups, and polygraph tests may follow.

The FBI won’t stop until they have enough proof to bring charges and get a conviction. And they have tremendous resources – crime labs, forensic accountants, behavioral experts, wiretaps, informants, etc. – at their disposal. So once you’re a suspect, the pressure is intense.

That’s why you need an attorney to deal with the FBI for you. We can negotiate limits on searches and interviews. We can also start uncovering flaws in the government’s case. The earlier you get us involved, the better.

How Federal Prosecutors Build a Bank Robbery Case

If the FBI investigation yields substantial evidence against you, the case will be referred to federal prosecutors. They’ll review the evidence and decide which charges under 18 U.S.C. § 2113 to pursue.

To convict at trial, prosecutors must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You took money belonging to or in the custody of a federally insured bank
  • You acted to take the money by force/violence or intimidation
  • You acted intentionally

They’ll rely heavily on FBI evidence like eyewitness testimony, surveillance footage, DNA/fingerprints, recovered money, co-conspirator statements, undercover operations, and confessions you may have made during interrogation.

Your defense attorney’s job is to find holes in the government’s case and raise reasonable doubt. I’ve gotten charges dismissed completely by exposing sloppy police work, unreliable witnesses, biased lineups, false confessions, and more. An experienced federal bank robbery lawyer can do the same for you.

Winning Federal Bank Robbery Cases by Fighting Evidence

The key to beating federal bank robbery charges is undermining the prosecution’s evidence. In my career, I’ve won “open and shut” cases by keeping bad evidence out of court. Here are some of the most effective strategies:

  • Suppress eyewitness identifications – Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. I’ve gotten robbers misidentified by bank tellers and customers excluded from trial by showing the ID process was biased.
  • Suppress confession evidence – Many suspects confess under the stress of FBI interrogation. But confessions can be thrown out if agents violated your rights or coerced you.
  • Exclude physical evidence – Evidence from unconstitutional searches or lacking foundation can be kept out of court. Without it, the government’s case falls apart.
  • Impeach cooperating witnesses – Accomplices who cooperate for reduced sentences can be discredited on their motives, inconsistent statements, and criminal records.

An experienced federal bank robbery attorney will scrutinize every piece of the government’s case. We can win pretrial motions to suppress evidence, deliver aggressive cross-examinations, and ultimately instill reasonable doubt in the jury. My firm has successfully defended many clients by attacking faulty evidence.

Case Study: Beating Eyewitness Identifications

I once defended a client charged with armed bank robbery based on two eyewitness identifications. The teller and a customer picked my client out of an FBI lineup. Prosecutors thought it was a slam dunk.

But I obtained records showing the FBI used biased lineup procedures. I hired an expert to explain eyewitness memory doesn’t work like cameras – it’s susceptible to suggestion. I also discovered the eyewitnesses differed on the robber’s appearance, undermining their credibility.

At a suppression hearing, I was able to convince the judge that the identifications were unreliable. They were excluded from trial. With their star witnesses gone, prosecutors had no choice but to dismiss the case. My client walked free.

This case shows why you should never accept defeat just because witnesses identified you. In many cases, those IDs can be challenged and beaten. An experienced bank robbery defense lawyer will know how.

Case Study: Suppressing a Confession

In another case, my client was charged with federal bank robbery after the FBI recorded him confessing. They told him the jig was up based on fingerprints, surveillance footage, and eyewitnesses. He saw no way out except admitting what he’d done.

But I obtained the FBI’s case file through discovery. I found they actually had limited evidence against my client. There were no fingerprints or surveillance footage, and the eyewitnesses were shaky. So the agents had deceived and coerced him into a false confession.

At a suppression hearing, I demonstrated how the FBI interrogation tactics violated my client’s rights. The judge agreed – the confession was thrown out. Again, federal prosecutors were left without a case. Charges dismissed.

False confessions are much more common than people believe. An experienced federal robbery defense attorney can get even seemingly solid confessions suppressed. Don’t let the government bully or trick you into admitting anything.

Winning at Trial – Instilling Reasonable Doubt

If pretrial motions fail to get evidence thrown out, your case may go to trial. Now the job becomes instilling reasonable doubt in the jury. I’ve secured many full acquittals for clients by executing the right trial strategy.

For example, I’ll aggressively cross-examine the FBI agents, witnesses, and forensic experts. My probing questions expose inconsistencies, biases, and flaws in their testimony. I’ll also present qualified expert witnesses to rebut the government’s evidence.

In closing arguments, I’ll connect the dots and explain precisely why the prosecution failed to meet their burden of proof. Many times, I’ve persuaded juries that the government’s whole case is based on speculation – not hard evidence. The power of reasonable doubt leads to not-guilty verdicts.

An experienced federal bank robbery trial lawyer will know how to control the narrative. We can win even when the evidence seems stacked against you. My firm has secured full acquittals for clients charged with violent armed robberies.

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