Bank robberies are among the most serious federal crimes in Nevada. The FBI investigates these cases, and the penalty may include decades in prison.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Is bank robbery a federal crime?
- 2. How do I fight the charges?
- 3. What are the penalties for federal bank robbery?
- Additional resources
1. Is bank robbery a federal crime?
A bank robbery is when you intentionally steal money or other property from a bank. 18 U.S.C. § 2113 prohibits both violent and non-violent thefts from all kinds of banking institutions.
Types of banks
Federal prosecutors may bring bank robbery charges for alleged thefts from either:
- banks, or
- credit unions, or
- savings and loan associations
A bank is any member bank of the Federal Reserve System. It encompasses
- banking associations,
- trust companies,
- savings banks,
- agencies of foreign banks, and
- institutions of deposit insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
A”credit union” must be insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board in order to be protected by bank robbery laws. Similarly, a “savings and loan association” needs to be insured by the FDIC.
Receiving stolen bank money, and attempts to bank rob
You still may be convicted of bank robbery even if you did not do the physical stealing. Charges may be brought against you for
- bartering, or
- disposing of
any money or property that you know has been unlawfully taken from a bank.
It is also considered bank robbery if you merely attempt to carry out the crime even if the attempt fails. Therefore, you can still be prosecuted whether or not you make away with any money.1
2. How do I fight the charges?
The best way to defend against charges of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2113 depends on the facts of the given bank robbery case. Below are three of the most typical defenses that our Las Vegas federal crimes lawyers rely on:
- Insufficient evidence. A jury is obligated to acquit you if the prosecution fails to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as the criminal defense attorney can demonstrate that the state’s evidence is faulty, unreliable, or inadequate, you should not be held liable for bank robbery.
- Mistaken identity. Bank robbers usually mask their faces and try to avoid security cameras when carrying out the theft. Furthermore, witnesses are often too panicked to get a good look at the robber’s physical attributes. So if the criminal defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt that you were the person who carried out the crime, the case may be dropped.
- Illegal search. Sometimes police overstep their bounds when conducting a search and seizure. If a criminal defense attorney can persuade the Nevada Federal Court that the police performed an illegal search, the court may suppress the evidence as if it never existed. This may cause the prosecutor to dismiss the whole case for lack of proof.
Note that bank robbery is a federal crime and not a state crime in Nevada. Therefore all alleged bank robbery cases are handled in either one of two courthouses:
- the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse located in Las Vegas, or
- the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse located in Reno.
3. What are the penalties for federal bank robbery?
The punishment for a federal bank robbery conviction in Nevada typically consists of a fine, time in Federal Prison, or both. The extent of the sentence depends on the severity of the alleged bank robbery itself.
Receiving money stolen from a bank
The penalties for knowingly receiving, storing, or disposing of money that you knew was stolen from a bank turn on the amount of money. If it is up to $1,000, then the judge may impose
- a fine and/or
- up to one (1) year in prison.
Otherwise, the judge may impose
- a fine and/or
- up to ten (10) years in prison.
Stealing from a bank without threats or violence
Taking away up to $1,000 in money or property from a bank with intent to steal it carries
- one (1) year in prison and/or
- a fine.
Though if the amount stolen exceeds $1,000, the punishment is
- up to ten (10) years in prison and/or
- a fine.
Stealing from a bank with threats or violence
Committing a bank robbery by force or intimidation but without assaulting anyone carries
- a fine and/or
- up to twenty (20) years in prison.
Conversely, if you assault or jeopardize someone’s life with a deadly weapon in the course of the bank robbery, the judge will order
- a fine and/or
- up to twenty-five (25) years in prison.
You face a ten (10) year sentence for bank robbery if you force another person to accompany you while trying to avoid arrest or escape confinement. If you kill someone in the course of a bank robbery, the judge will order
- life imprisonment or
- capital punishment.2
Federal Prisons in Nevada
There are no federal prisons in Nevada. So people who are sentenced to federal prison in Nevada are usually housed out of state.
For more information, refer to the following:
- Bank Robbery – Discussion of the crime and its history by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
- History of Bank Robberies – Overview by the Crime Museum.
- 5 of the Most Daring Bank Heists – Summary by the History Channel.
- The 10 biggest bank robberies of all time, including who got caught and who got away – Listicle by Moneywise.
- Bank Robbery – Discussion of how to police bank robberies by the ASU Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.
- 18 U.S.C. § 2113. See, for example, United States v. Henry (9th Cir., 2021) 984 F.3d 1343; Young v. United States (9th Cir., 2022) 22 F.4thh 1115.
- See note 1.